“immensely complex… huge ramifications… major reverberations…”

The Holy Father baptized the baby of a couple who are only civilly married.

¡Vaya lío!

From the excellent Canon Law blog of Ed Peters… who is probably smart not to have an open combox.  Or .. maybe he just enjoys watching me moderate the discussion over here.   I dunno.

My emphases and comments.

How popes, baptism, marriage, and form, all come together

[...]

First, unlike the foot-washing episode last Holy Week (here and here), the pope’s actions today occasion no reason to think that canon or liturgical law has been—what’s the right word?—disregarded, for no canon or liturgical law forbids baptizing the babies of unmarried couples, etc. Indeed, Church law generally favors the administration of sacraments and, in the case of baptism, it requires only that there be “a founded hope” that the child will be raised Catholic (1983 CIC 868 § 1, 2º). A minister could certainly discern ‘founded hope’ for a Catholic upbringing under these circumstances and outsiders should not second-guess his decision. [And I guess that still applies when the minister is THE POPE.]

But here’s the rub: a minister could also arrive at precisely the opposite conclusion on these facts and, equally in accord with the very same Church law, he could delay the baptism. I know of many pastors who have reached this conclusion and who used the occasion of a request for a baby’s baptism to assist the parents toward undertaking their duties in a more responsible manner, including helping them to regularize their marriage status in the Church, resume attendance at Sunday Mass, participate fully in the sacraments, and so on. [All of which, I think, we will stipulate are good things.]

Now, if the pope’s action today was as reported (again, we don’t know that yet), [then… (here we go!) ] pastors who delay a baby’s baptism in order to help reactivate the Faith in the baby’s parents are going to have a harder time doing that as word gets out about the pope’s (apparently) different approach to the rite. Whether that was the message Francis intended to send is irrelevant to whether that is the message that he seems to have sent.

[NB] But, I suggest, the whole question of whether to baptize the baby of these parents surfaces a yet deeper question.

The only reason we describe this civilly-married Catholic couple as “unmarried” is because they apparently did not observe “canonical form” in marrying, that is, they did not marry ‘in the Church’ as required by 1983 CIC 1108, 1117. Now think about this: had two Protestants, two Jews, two Muslims, two Hindus, two Animists, two You-Name-Its, otherwise able to marry, expressed their matrimonial consent before a civil official, we Catholics would have regarded them as presumptively married. But, when two Catholics (actually, even if only one were Catholic, per 1983 CIC 1059) attempt marriage outside of canonical form, the Church regards them as not married at all. [Get that?] That’s a dramatic conclusion to reach based only on one’s (non)observance of an ecclesiastical law that is itself only a few hundred years old.

For more than 50 years, a quiet undercurrent of (if I may put it this way) solidly Catholic canonists and theologians has been questioning whether canonical form—a remedy that nearly all would agree has outlived the disease it was designed to cure (clandestine marriage)—should be still be required for Catholics or [Quaeritur...] whether the price of demanding the observance of canonical form has become too high for the pastoral good it might serve.

Canonical form is an immensely complex topic. It has huge ramifications in the Church and it has major reverberations in the world. I am not going to discuss those here. But if the upcoming Synod on the Family and Evangelization is looking for a topic that needs, in my opinion, some very, very careful reconsideration, that topic would be the future of canonical form for marriage among Catholics. There is still time to prep the question for synodal discussion.

All of this, you might wonder, from the baptism of a baby? Yes, because everything in the Church is connected to everything else. Eventually, if we get it right, it all comes together to form a magnificent tapestry of saving truth.

And he is eloquent, too.

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166 Responses to “immensely complex… huge ramifications… major reverberations…”

  1. moon1234 says:

    This almost seems like a non-sequitur. Does one who breaks the law deserve rights afforded UNDER the law? If one chooses to ignore Church law regarding canonical form, does one deserve the benefits that the law? If canonical form can be dispensed without permission, then what message does it send to those who do follow canonical form?

    With all of the redefinition of marriage that is happening in the “Civil Marriage” realm, it would seem logical to no longer recognize civil marriage at all. What about divorced peoples? Does the Church recognize the first, 2nd, third marriage?

    Redefining marriage or “loosening the rules” on canonical form almost seems like submitting to the abuse, just like “female altar boys”. I fear it will also further split the identity of Catholics. Those that follow canonical form could see those that don’t as having a 2nd class marriage or as less devout. All of this revolves around CATHOLICS who the law SHOULD apply to, but CHOOSE to ignore it.

  2. I always found it ironic that a couple who simply disregarded the Church’s requirements altogether could later obtain a 1-2-3 declaration of nullity simply on the basis of lack of canonical form if they ever divorced and wanted to remarry, while someone who tried to do the right things as best as they could would have to undergo a far more difficult process to obtain a declaration of nullity. It just doesn’t seem fair, and I am glad that Dr. Peters has raised this important question; I did not even know the history behind the current requirement of canonical form for validity.

  3. … delay the baptism?
    Sounds dicey to me. I am grateful to God that the infant mortality rate is not what it used to be 100 years, or even 50 years ago, but it’s still the child’s immortal soul hanging in the balance. Is it really worth the wait?

  4. CGPearson says:

    “I know of many pastors who have reached this conclusion and who used the occasion of a request for a baby’s baptism to assist the parents toward undertaking their duties in a more responsible manner, including helping them to regularize their marriage status in the Church, resume attendance at Sunday Mass, participate fully in the sacraments, and so on. [All of which, I think, we will stipulate are good things.]”

    While it is certainly a good thing to get the parents to enter back into the life of the Church, the idea of doing it in this manner is troubling to me. It would almost give the impression that the un-baptized child’s soul is being held ransom as a way to bring the parents back to the Church. It’s not the fault of the child that the parents have made mistakes, so why not baptize the child ASAP regardless of the parents’ situation in order to at least guarantee salvation for the child until he/she reaches the age of reason, then work on catechizing the parents in the meantime? Maybe I’m just misunderstanding something…

  5. Jeannie_C says:

    My husband and I married civilly (first marriage for both of us) when we were still Anglicans. Marriage is not considered a sacrament in that church and so we were free to marry wherever we wished. When we converted to the Roman Catholic faith, our marriage was considered valid due to our Baptisms in infancy. If our Baptisms were what made our civil marriage valid in the eyes of the R.C. Church at the time of our reception, then why isn’t Baptism the grounds for validity in R.C. marriage?

  6. off2 says:

    This is fascinating. Hope the [apparently] much needed discussion ensues at the appropriate level.

  7. Lavrans says:

    And so, perhaps, are we to see a further decline in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, particularly if it is no longer required for Catholics to be considered “married” at all? Those Catholics who did not go through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, but rather only possessing a civil marriage, being considered married and able to receive Holy Communion and have their children baptized, no questions asked? Where is Pope Francis speaking on the graces of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and how those graces are necessary if the marriage is to survive? What kind of compassion and mercy is it to not inform these people, and the world at large, of those graces and how Catholics not only SHOULD undergo the sacrament, but by Canon Law, MUST?

    What of contraception? Do only those who undergo the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony have to play by the rules, or if everyone is married, does everyone? So very confusing from this, our spiritual leader and Vicar of Christ on earth.

    Why bother with Canon Law at all? Does he wish to be rid of it or is he simply not aware of most of it?

  8. Jeannie_C says:

    Lavrans,

    You make a very good point about the important graces received in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. That said, do only Catholics receive those graces? My husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary over the Christmas season, having been civilly married before our reception into the R.C. Church. Presumably our Baptisms as infants (Protestant Church) infused us with sufficient grace to keep our marriage going, though that can’t be said of a number of our friends married in the R.C. Sacrament and then annulled and re-married, second and third marriages convalidated.

  9. amenamen says:

    Jeannie C: I think you mean “sacramental” rather than “valid”.
    A marriage is “valid” whether or not the bride or groom is baptized. Even pagans can have a valid marriage, binding for life, and there is no requirement that the two pagans get married in a Catholic ceremony. Also, two Anglicans can certainly have a valid marriage, which is binding for life, with no obligation to be married in a Catholic ceremony. But a valid marriage is “sacramental” (the Sacrament of Marriage, instituted by Christ) when both the bride and groom are baptized Christians. Even though Protestants do not usually use the term “sacrament” in reference to marriage, the Catholic Church recognizes the marriage of two baptized Protestants as both valid and sacramental. The Catholic Church does not (can not) impose the obligation on non-Catholics to be married in a Catholic ceremony, but it can (and does) impose the obligation on Catholics to be married in a Catholic ceremony.

  10. anilwang says:

    Lavrans says: “only possessing a civil marriage, being considered married and able to receive Holy Communion and have their children baptized, no questions asked? ”

    Not necessarily. It’s my understanding, before the Council of Trent, a civil marriage was considered valid, however sanctions were put in place since marriages outside the Church were frowned upon. It’s my understanding, the nature of those sanctions varied from region to region, but I would imagine that in at least some jurisdictions marriage outside the Church was treated as a mortal sin and a required reparation ofter confession would consist of a convalidation ceremony to bring the marriage under the Church.

    Note that there is currently another inconsistency in canon law. If a civilly married Catholic (e.g. 10 years) wanted to get married within the Church, the marriage could be convalidated and the marriage would officially start with the convalidation ceremony (e.g. the couple are now newly weds). If however one of the civilly married Catholics (e.g. 10 years) were to refuse a Church wedding (e.g. one was an anti-Catholic Protestant or simply refused to accept that no marriage had taken place), the Catholic spouse could apply for a “sanatio in radice” and have the original wedding being declared valid (e.g. they were officially married 10 years). Also, civil marriages are considered valid if no minister of the Church is available (i.e. as in the Church in Korea that was started over a hundred years before priests were present, leaving Korean Catholics with only two valid sacraments, baptism and marriage). Add to this Andrew Saucci examples of how civilly married Catholic have an easier time getting an annulment than Catholics married inside the Church, and the fact that civilly married Catholic need an annulment (of a marriage that supposedly doesn’t already exist) before getting remarried within the Church and you have a mess on your hands that encourages marriage irregularities because the more rules and exceptions you have, the more opportunities there are for abuse and a false understanding of marriage.

    Personally, I would welcome a return to accepting the validity of civilly married Catholics if it were treated as a mortal sin and a required reparation ofter confession would consist of a convalidation ceremony to bring the marriage under the Church. It would greatly simplify the way all marriages are handled within the Church and get rid of loopholes, without letting Catholics off the hook for getting Church recognition for the marriage. It would also emphasize that, besides access to the sacraments, the main reason for getting married within the Church is that a Church marriage is sacramental while a non-Catholic marriage is merely valid and would not receive the same sacramental graces.

  11. elijah408 says:

    I read in a news story somewhere earlier today that the couple has every intention of having their marriage blessed within the Church when they return to their home country. I think the Pope wanted the child to be baptized for the sake of its soul knowing that the couple has the intention of having their marriage blessed and live as Catholics.

  12. Pingback: How Popes, Baptism, Marriage & Form, All Come Together -Big Pulpit

  13. Oneros says:

    The reverse issue might also be considered: though long treated as a point of theology or doctrine…is it possible that the idea that “two Christians can either marry as a sacrament, or not at all” is also a changeable point of canon law?

    As it does seem sort of bizarre to say that in a civil ceremony two Hindus are naturally married, two Protestants are Sacramentally married, but two Catholics aren’t anything at all.

    The Church here seems to be trying to compromise between two ideas: that which says it is two baptized souls which make a marriage a Sacrament, and something more like the Eastern churches which would give a high precedence to the ceremony (in the East, remember, it is the priest and not the couple who actually is minister of the Sacrament).

    I’d be inclined to move towards Eastern practice and make the Church rite confect the Sacrament. Protestants would no longer be sacramentally marrying from that point forward.

    And yet, would we thus claim that they weren’t doing “anything at all”? That their marriage was merely “putative”? That seems a bit off when it looks and quacks like a marriage. Further, consider this contradiction: under such a regime (where the Church required canonical form for sacramentality for all Christians), two Protestants couldn’t marry each other (at least under the principle of “sacrament or nothing”) but might be able to contract a valid marriage with a non-Christian.

    This hypothetical would seem to suggest to me something off about the “sacrament or nothing between two baptized” idea. So then I’m led to entertain the idea of two Christians in a merely natural marriage. I’ve never quite understood how a natural institution can be invalidated for Christians merely because of a higher Sacramental threshhold. The Sacrament might be invalidated, but does that really also necessarily invalidate the natural union too?

    This would be novel to Western theology which has tended to see “Sacrament or nothing between two baptized” as an (unchangeable) doctrinal rather than (changeable) canonical principle. But I’d like to know how the Eastern churches view it. I don’t imagine, for example, the Orthodox recognizing two Protestants marrying before a judge as having engaged in a Holy Mystery. Yet I’m not sure they’d say “they’re simply not married at all,” either. Maybe Orthodox readers can correct and enlighten me, but it’s possible they put such a marriage more in the category of a marriage between two pagans, in spite of their baptism.

    Now this opens a can of worms, because we wouldn’t want to suggest that Christians could deliberately enter into merely natural marriages with each other as a sort of trial marriage or loophole for sex that deliberately left the possibility open of dissolution later (in favor of a sacramental marriage). But then maybe we’d just say if done knowingly it’s a sin even if valid naturally.

  14. Oneros says:

    Ah ok, I found this from an Orthodox source:

    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2013/07/natural-and-sacramental-marriage-an-orthodox-christian-perspective/

    Apparently they have two parts of the rite. They see the first part as a natural marriage that is then “sacramentalized,” or used as the matter for the Sacrament of Matrimony (in the same way a natural washing is used as matter for Baptism, or natural food as matter for the Eucharistic consecration).

    Two pagans, or even two Protestants, are not forced to remarry, though. Rather, their marriage is “brought into the Church” sometimes with the full ceremony, but sometimes just with the admission to communion.

    While Western Catholics would see baptism as the moment a pagan marriage is “sacramentalized”
    (and thus can see no such moment for already-baptized Protestants), for the Orthodox the marriage becomes Sacramental only when that relationship is “admitted to communion” (literally and figuratively).

    I wonder if the West shouldn’t consider this model.

    I’ve always found it a bit incredulous that an annulled marriage is declared simply “nothing.” Yet they know it wasn’t really nothing, because there is this concept of “putative.”

    Perhaps Catholic and Orthodox teaching could be reconciled in the following way: the Sacrament is indissoluble, but even if we determine that the Sacrament was invalid, there was (usually) still a Natural Marriage (and maybe even a sort of “sacramental” on account of the blessing it received in the ceremony) and so it wasn’t just “nothing” either. There is a true natural dissolution that must be mourned as a tragedy, and any remarriage is penitential in tone liturgically. (This also explains, better than the “putative” idea, why children from the first marriage are still legitimate).

    Something to consider.

  15. Cathy says:

    Interesting, I’ve wondered about this recognizing that there have been groups who have kept the Catholic faith in times of major persecution where no Catholic priests were available. In such a situation, could the marriages of these faithful people be considered invalid? My understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism, is that even baptism in Protestant Churches are recognized as valid, and that the sacrament is valid by form, matter and intention. I often worry about the status of civilly recognized marriage outside of the Church, as an opportunity for people within the Church to counsel relatives to actually do this, believing the marriage will not work out – not recognized, no problem if you get a divorce, you can still have a Catholic wedding some time down the line.

  16. anilwang says:

    Oneros says: “I’ve always found it a bit incredulous that an annulled marriage is declared simply “nothing.” Yet they know it wasn’t really nothing, because there is this concept of “putative.””

    Well no. An annulled marriage never happened, not even in the natural sense, and all the Church is doing is simply declaring what was always the case. If proper due diligence was done and if the couple was properly catechized and it were possible to expose people’s true motives for marriage, then there would be no annulments since there would not be Church marriage in the first place. When the Church is healthy, the number of annulments are small since these conditions happen. The fact that in the US the number of annulments is quite high shows that the Church in the US is quite sick and what’s needed is to fix the problem, not paper over it.

  17. Elijah wrote:”I read in a news story somewhere earlier today that the couple has every intention of having their marriage blessed within the Church when they return to their home country. I think the Pope wanted the child to be baptized for the sake of its soul knowing that the couple has the intention of having their marriage blessed and live as Catholics.” thanks for the heads up.
    Wondered about that..if the Pope wasn’t aware of their future plans to marry in the Church. Perhaps that not everything was as it seemed and hold back on jumping to conclusions.I always thought the Church encouraged the baptism of infants regardless of circumstances UNLESS the parents themselves were non Catholic and objected to it(i’ve heard of grandparents who considered running off with their grandchildren and getting the children baptized against the parents wishes).Good to hear though Elijah so we don’t have to watch Pope Francis get pounced on for this one.

  18. Oneros says:

    Yes I know the theory. I’m saying I find the theory problematic. That’s the current canonical reality. But I’m saying the Orthodox model might be better: even baptized Christians have a “natural marriage” that is prior to the Sacrament, but which is sacramentalized when the relationship/couple is admitted to communion together.

    This would be similar to how pagan marriages are automatically sacramentalized as soon as both spouses are baptized, in Western law, it’s just that instead of baptism, the “sacramentalizing” line would be the admission of the couple to communion.

    This also prevents people from “cheating” or trying to fool the rules by deliberately contracting a non-sacramental marriage (except with a non-Christian, of course) because the marriage would be seen as sacramentalized as soon as the couple took communion, so if they want to be in full Eucharist-receiving communion, there is no way to deliberately avoid or compartmentalize their marriage (but they also wouldn’t be admitted to communion if their natural marriage was objectionable; for example, if it was the last in a long string, ala the Orthodox “three strikes” rule).

  19. prs1 says:

    I think Baptism should only be withheld (delayed) under exceptional circumstances such as the parents are intending to make a mockery of the sacrament or have absolutely no intention of bringing up the child in the Catholic faith. To me the key point is, it is the child who is being Baptised, not the parents rewarded for good behaviour. By Baptism we are adopted and become children of God and members of the Body of Christ – it is something that happens to the baby, not to the parents. Of course the parents should be properly prepared for the reception of the sacrament by their baby and one must hope and pray that their civil marriage will be celebrated and validated in Church, but that should not be a condition for Baptism. If the Catholic Church withholds Baptism, I would hope that the parents would have their baby Baptised in a Protestant Church. In so doing the baby would received a valid Baptism which the Catholic Church would have to recognise – but what a dreadful missed opportunity for the Catholic Church – it would be almost an own goal! Bravo for Pope Francis – he is acting just like St Peter and showing the unconditional love of Christ.

  20. jflare says:

    I think it safe to say that this situation with Pope Francis offering the baptism for this child..this is one of those things that REALLY make me dislike his papacy.
    I gather that many view this as something wonderful, something where Pope Francis is “reaching out” how he’s showing unconditional love, etc. I must point out that there are precisely the same ideas that I’ve been hearing for most of my life, all too many of which..ultimately fail to address the real concerns we should be handling. Canon law has various stipulations for various reasons, usually aimed at addressing some pretty particular concerns.
    If we would admit to the marriage of two Buddhists within Buddhism, but not the marriage of two Catholics who married in civil court, if we find that shocking, it’d be good to review what we’re addressing. Two Buddhists would naturally be recognized as being married–sacramentally or not would be tougher to discern–because we’re assuming they following the typical rules of marriage for Buddhists. Not so the case with the two Catholics though: Catholics could technically fly down to Vegas, be “married” by some representative of the State of Nevada, and be “married” for purposes of civil law, but have no clue of what sacramental marriage..means..in the Catholic faith. If a couple married civilly, I would want to know why they didn’t know what the Church required and/or why.

    I have similar reservations about this baptism. Canon law has typical requirements regarding who may baptize or how because the Church has a natural want to ensure that the child will have some reasonable cause to even care about what baptism..means. I would argue that unless the child is obviously in grave danger of death, that baptism might be best delayed precisely to assure that offering the baptism won’t incidentally cause the child to be prone to a more grave risk of Hell, precisely by virtue of holding their own baptism in contempt..in part because of the parents’ choices during childhood. A stretch of imagination perhaps, but we should remember that canon law came about with some requirements precisely because someone abused some concept or another somewhere along the line.

    As an aside, if the couple in this case intended to have their marriage blessed upon returning home, I’d be interested in knowing why a member of the Curia couldn’t have offered said blessing BEFORE becoming part of the public event of the baptism? I can’t imagine it would take more than a few minutes….

  21. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Augustinus Lehmkuhl’s 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia “Sacrament of Marriage” article (q.v.) is very interesting in itself, and also in this context – though juxtaposing it and what Dr. Peter’s writes results in many questions…

    For example, “not only the marriage between Catholics, but also that contracted by members of the different sects which have retained baptism and validly baptize, is undoubtedly a sacrament. It matters not whether the non-Catholic considers marriage a sacrament or not, or whether he intends to effect a sacrament or not.”

    And, quoting the Encyclical “Arcanum” of Leo XIII, “t is clear that among Christians every true marriage is, in itself and by itself, a sacrament; and that nothing can be farther from the truth than to say that the sacrament is a certain added ornament, or external adjunct, which can be separated and torn away from the contract at the caprice of man.”

    And, “Of course, according to ecclesiastical law, the form prescribed for validity is, as a rule, the personal, mutual declaration of consent before witnesses; but that is a requirement added to the nature of marriage and to Divine law, which the Church can therefore set aside and from which she can dispense in individual cases.”

    So, any marriage between a baptized man and woman (not otherwise maritally contracted) would seem to be a sacrament – even if there were no witnesses, and whether both or either “intends to effect a sacrament or not.”

    However, he also refers to “the expressions of the Fathers or in papal letters, which state that marriage without the priest is declared unholy, wicked, or sacrilegious, that it does not bring the grace of God but provokes His wrath. This is nothing more than what the Council of Trent says in the chapter “Tametsi” (XXIV, i, de ref. Matr.), namely, that ‘the Holy Church of God has always detested and forbidden clandestine marriages’. Such statements do not deny the sacramental character of marriage so contracted; but they do condemn as sacrilegious that reception of the sacrament which indeed lays open the source of grace, yet places an obstacle in the way of the sacrament’s efficacy.”

    Presumably, the case is analogous to that of baptism or marriage-of-baptized-man-and-woman-free-to-marry where those not in communion with the Holy Father are concerned, it is a sacrament, but a sacrament the (full?) sacramental functioning of which is seen as impaired (to put it mildly).

    Has something quite different from this theological understanding been established in Canon Law since 1910?

  22. rcg says:

    It seems safe to assume the Pope is convinced the parents truly intend to assist or permit the child to be raised Catholic. It also seems that he would have some understanding of whether the parents had an intent to marry within Church Law or would advise or prohibit them from Communion based on their willful break with Church Law. We can hope the parents somehow convinced the Pope they intend to marry within the Church.

    So in my mind this Law is as relevant and needed as ever. Marriage outside the Church is no longer the biggest problem but the abuse of the Sacrament is more of a problem than ever.

  23. Jim Dorchak says:

    Should not the conversation gone like this?
    Popes Guy: Ok the Pope will only baptize your baby if you get married in the Church.
    Couple: But we do not want to get married!
    Popes Guy: Then Fr. Guido will be happy to baptize the baby for you in two weeks in a side chapel.
    Couple: But we want the Pope to baptize little Giuseppe!
    Popes Guy: Look this is the way it is. I am sorry. If you like, we can have you married in the Church later today. It will only take a few min, but the Pope does not want to create a scandal and have the press have a hay day with you not being married and asking for Baptism in the Church who’s authority you do not recognize. Well?
    Couple: I guess when you put it that way, and this is our 2nd child, and we do love each other, oh and we do want to be obedient. We will get married. Besides we would never want to cause a scandal.
    But NOOOOOooo that is not what they did. Lets have a good ole scandal….. again.

  24. Lavrans says:

    @Jeannie_C: First, not all marriages that take place, Catholic or otherwise, are real marriages. The ones you refer to as having been annulled are just that: null and void. The marriage never occurred.

    What the Catechism says is that for authentic marriages, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony confers sacramental grace that strengthens the marital bond and gives it the ability to last a lifetime. That is what is special about sacramental marriage in the Church.

    If it were not special, it would not be a sacrament at all and there would be no point in doing it in the Church. You’re basically questioning whether or not this sacrament gives sacramental grace. It does and it is different (and I would say better) than other marriages. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be Catholic.

  25. Volanges says:

    I think Dr. Peters is asking a valid question.

    We already know that a priest and the Church are not required for a Catholic to contract a valid sacramental marriage. All that’s required is another baptized person and the bishop’s permission (dispensation) and they receive all the graces that the sacrament imparts whether they marry in an Anglican church or in somebody’s garden.

    We know that the Church imposed the requirement of canonical form in response to clandestine marriages which often saw women abandoned and the marriage denied by the husband since there was no proof. As long as the requirement remains that the marriage be celebrated before witnesses, and that requirement presently exists for civil marriages, is there a reason to require that it be in the Church to be valid?

  26. Phil_NL says:

    Venerator Sti Lot,

    That eading would mean that there would be a sacrament, even if one or both parties administring it – the couple marrying civilly – would (perhaps explicitly) intent that there is no sacrament. That seems odd, and at odds with the other sacraments, where intent is necessary for validity.
    Moreover, then we would have a difference between a civil marriage and a contract between two people granting eachother the same rights and obligations as are accorded to the maried state; the latter isn’t marriage, but the former would be. That also poses problems, as the only differenc would be the name above the piece of paper. I’d say that is no a good basis to determine if there is a sacrament or not.

    I think that we need to be very careful with references from 1910 here, as back then, petty much everyone understood marriage to mean more or less the same. Such assumptions went out of the window with no-fault divorce, and have compunded since. I think that the older texts contain some implicit assumpions (about the nature of marriage, and its definition) that are not valid anymore.

  27. Phil_NL says:

    reading, not ‘eading’, ofc.

  28. mrshopey says:

    That was interesting to learn that marrying in the Church stemmed from a remedy to cure clandestine marriages.
    If it were addressed at the synod, and found that Catholics who marry civilly are in fact validly married, it would put an end to those Catholics who marry civilly only so they have an escape route from obligations/marriage if/when it doesn’t work.

  29. Phil_NL says:

    mrshopey,

    That won’t shut down any escape routes. Then they could equally well simply cohabitate. And you can tie that up with all kinds of contracts rearding joint ownership of assets etc. In fact, that is what we have seen here in the netherlands for years. No doubt it will also come to the States if there is enough demand.

  30. cwillia1 says:

    It seems essential that Catholics should be certain about their marital status both for the sake of their consciences as they received communion and for the sake of the stability and health of their marriages. The requirement for canonical form addresses that need. There are other ways to achieve this goal. One way is to have the pastor interview each couple that marries civilly, formally admit them to communion and register their marriage. In this interview the pastor would determine that are free to marry and they understand what marriage means and even have them repeat vows if their original consent was unclear.

  31. Martlet says:

    All I can say here is that I was the child of a non-practicing Catholic and a nominal-only Anglican. I was baptised as an infant and it seems it “took” because of all my family, including all my cousins, I am still, 63 years later, a practicing Catholic. If there is a good Catholic grandparent (as in my case) and half a chance that the child will be raised Catholic, I am in favour of permitting the child all the sacramental graces the Church affords. I remember one Sunday when my father forbade me from going to Mass as, in his opinion, I was “getting too much religion” at school. I was 11 years old and turned to face my father, effectively telling him “if you hit me, I will be a martyr and you will answer to God.” He froze, hand raised in mid-air. I went to Mass. Thank you Father, whoever you were, for baptising me in spite of my parents.

  32. Kerry says:

    “…had two Protestants….we Catholics would have regarded them as presumptively married. But, when two Catholics …..the Church regards them as not married at all. [Get that?] ”
    Ah, the sine qua non, logic and reasoning.

  33. Bosco says:

    “…but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

  34. mrshopey says:

    Philip – you are probably right. Since so many states are seeing a need to redefine what marriage is, I could see it coming sooner than later.

  35. OrthodoxChick says:

    I’m missing something here. In my area, babies cannot be Baptized in the Catholic church unless/until the parents complete a short prep course prior to the Baptism. That’s where the catechesis of the parents is addressed, if need be. To the best of my knowledge, the parents can take the pre-Baptism course regardless of the regularity/irregularity of their marital status. One has nothing to do with the other in regard to the Baptism of their child hanging in the balance, pending whatever canonical state their marriage is in. Is this not the norm in most Dioceses?

  36. Lepidus says:

    There is one other interesting point that I don’t think that I’ve seen developed anywhere. Elijah408 made reference above to something that said that the couple intended to get married in the Church when they return home. The thing that I wonder about is that because it was the Pope, he has a whole different set of issues and is not facing the same concerns that your local area parish priest is facing. I am sure that there are hundreds if no thousands of new parents who would like to have their baby baptized by the Pope. How did this particular couple rise to the top or even get visibility to rise to the top. The Holy Father is trying to say something (although, I’m not going to guess as to what that might be). They could have just as easily been told that they were not in the top 10 and nobody would have thought anything of it. On the other hand, your local parish priest HAS to make a decision on that couple. Either he’s going to do it this week, month, year….or he’s not and has to explain that “not”.

  37. mrshopey says:

    Orthodox Chick, although the classes are required for the first child of the couple, it doesn’t mean the child(ren) will be baptized here. It is my understanding the priest/DRE has to have to indication that the child will be brought up in the faith. Where my sister and husband were, they could not have their children baptized till they had married in the church even though they were told to get married civilly while they await the annulment process. Had they known they would have been denied baptism for their children, they wouldn’t have done that.

  38. JPManning says:

    Civil marriage has moved so far away from what a Christian marriage is that I don’t think civil marriages should be regarded as valid. The divorce laws are a de facto pre-nuptial agreement; it is unreasonable to infer that someone has committed themselves to a relationship for life, despite any future challenges, from the fact that they have married civilly.
    In the UK there is also the problem of anti-discrimination laws. Now that gay and hetero marriages are considered as the same thing it would be illegal to offer baptism to civilly married straight couples whilst refusing it to a married couple of activist lesbians.

  39. brhenry says:

    There is no true Marriage outside of Christ. Unless the
    three Goods of Marriage are present, the carnal act is always sinful.
    The carnal act is not good in and of itself and must be excused
    by the Goods of Marriage . Only baptized souls qualify for these three Goods.
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/5049.htm
    This is the crux of the marriage question.

  40. jbas says:

    I’m in favor of changing the law and urging non-practicing Catholics to enter into valid sacramental marriages exclusively via civil ceremonies. As for baptisms, I only ever denied one request. The mother was single, but I denied it because she said she didn’t believe in God or His Church, would not raise the child in the Faith, and only wanted the “ceremony” for the purpose of naming the child. But as long as there’s any reasonable chance that the parents/parent will raise the child in the Faith, I will not even delay the sacrament.

  41. Lavrans says:

    @jbas: Then what is the point of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony? If sacramental grace is “available” outside of the sacrament (which is a notion not found in the Catechism or any Church document to my knowledge), then there is no reason to have marriages in churches or declare it a sacrament at all.

    To me, this is akin to saying there is no need to go to sacramental confession, for sacramental grace is available to anyone who feels they are sorry and prays for it.

    So are we all dumping on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony now? Wow. The secular world has truly won this battle. Marriage is meaningless…even in the Church now. Christ thinks differently, of course, but who speaks of Him nowadays?

  42. Pingback: What’s your position on baptism? | Foolishness to the world

  43. OrthodoxChick says:

    mrshopey,

    Around here, the parents have to take the class for each child, not just the first one. And there generally is the understanding that the child will be Baptized in the parish where the parents take the class. I’ve never heard of a situation where a couple took the class in one parish for their first child, then they moved, and then were exempted from the class when seeking to have their successive child(ren) Baptized. Now, I do know that the pastor has the authority to waive the class for couples who are regular parishoners, known to the pastor to be devoutly practicing. In my current N.O. parish, it is the permanent Deacon and his wife who give the pre-Baptism class. They work with the parents regarding catechesis of parental responsibilities and regularization of the parental marriage if need be. Our former DRE used to handle any paperwork that might be needed by the marriage tribunal, but within the last year, the pastor has decided to handle such paperwork himself personally. Still, I haven’t heard of a case of Baptism being denied to a baby while the parents get their act together canonically. Come to think of it, canonical status of the parents doesn’t hold up a child receiving First Holy Communion, nor Confirmation either – not in these parts anyway.

  44. Lavrans says:

    I reference the following in support of my conclusion that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is where sacramental graces are available.

    1615 This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses.108 By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.109 This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.

    1616 This is what the Apostle Paul makes clear when he says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her,” adding at once: “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.”110

    1617 The entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath111 which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist. Christian marriage in its turn becomes an efficacious sign, the sacrament of the covenant of Christ and the Church. Since it signifies and communicates grace, marriage between baptized persons is a true sacrament of the New Covenant.112

    1623 In the Latin Church, it is ordinarily understood that the spouses, as ministers of Christ’s grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. In the Eastern liturgies the minister of this sacrament (which is called “Crowning”) is the priest or bishop who, after receiving the mutual consent of the spouses, successively crowns the bridegroom and the bride as a sign of the marriage covenant.

    1624 The various liturgies abound in prayers of blessing and epiclesis asking God’s grace and blessing on the new couple, especially the bride. In the epiclesis of this sacrament the spouses receive the Holy Spirit as the communion of love of Christ and the Church.124 The Holy Spirit is the seal of their covenant, the ever available source of their love and the strength to renew their fidelity.

    1631 This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form. Several reasons converge to explain this requirement:132
    – Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church;
    – Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children; – Since marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is necessary (hence the obligation to have witnesses);
    – the public character of the consent protects the “I do” once given and helps the spouses remain faithful to it.

    1641 “By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.”145 This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.”146

    1642 Christ is the source of this grace. “Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of Matrimony.”147 Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,”148 and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb:

  45. jbas says:

    Lavrans,
    The post seems to have more to do with baptism, but as for matrimony, Church law could permit couples to celebrate the sacrament of matrimony without the presence of a clergyman. In this case, it would not be a question of setting aside the sacrament, but of setting aside the priest or deacon.

  46. robtbrown says:

    The Peters comments are good stuff. For some time certain Catholic distinctions in marriage have not made a lot of sense to me.

    First, re Baptism:

    It is the first Sacrament chronologically (but not ontologically), the entrance to Sacramental life. No one can ever deserve it. It is not a Protestant occasion for an expression of the Faith, but rather works ex opere operato. That means that the Baptism of a baby with non believing (or non practicing) parents is a possibility.

    And there is of course the case of the great Jesuit missionary St Francis Xavier, who Baptised hundreds . . . even without the benefit of RCIA! Although the pope has said that he took his name on behalf of Francis of Assisi, I am not convinced that Francis Xavier is not also somewhere in his intention.

    On the other hand, Baptism is the Sacrament of Faith. Obviously, an infant cannot make a profession of Faith, so that is left for the parents (or at least, one parent). And so the question to be asked of them is why they want the baby Baptised at all. BTW, back in the 70′s I knew two high school sisters whose parents didn’t practice. I’m not sure whether the girls had been Baptised, but both became practicing Catholics. Great girls who were distance runners, the older went to Tennessee Knoxville on a track scholarship.

  47. Mary T says:

    I understand all the canonical law issues, all the comments on everything from annulment to the purpose of the sacraments, why one shouldn’t wait, etc. etc. etc. What I don’t understand is WHY this couple was chosen for this honor. If they wanted their baby baptized, WHY was it done by the Pope and not any one of the zillion other Catholic priests in Rome? And how many sacramentally married couples would have given anything to have their baby baptized by the Pope?
    Seriously – to me, THAT is the puzzler in this whole thing. What specifically was the message being sent? I am not saying I object to the message – I can’t, since I don’t know what it is – but it would be helpful if someone has the rationale, which I missed. Thank you.

  48. mrshopey says:

    Orthodox Chick,
    Currently here, the prep classes is a film + questionnaire. That is probably why they do not require re-prep for each additional child.
    Personally, it wasn’t till I started teaching my own children that I found out the personal responsibility of passing on the faith. From the classes and experience growing up, you were required to enroll them in CCD which meant you were passing on the faith. I know the hard way that is not always the case.
    The situation of my sister was a very hard one for me to accept. None of it made sense even with them being denied baptism of their children even though they were doing everything they had been advised to do. It came to a point where it was so hurtful to them and confusing (in addition to me seeing if they could be baptized in my diocese – no luck if denied in another diocese – won’t touch them) they left. That is still heart breaking. There would have been no children in an invalid marriage if they had not been counseled to do so, marry civilly, in the first place. But even if their case had not been that, the sins of the parents should not keep the children away especially if they are trying to do what is right.

  49. Titus says:

    Doesn’t anyone tell these people not to wear white in papal audiences? Sheesh.

    before the Council of Trent, a civil marriage was considered valid,

    There was no such thing as a “civil marriage” in the sixteenth century. The civil authorities just slapped legal labels on ecclesiastical acts. If there was a legal dispute arising out of your marriage, it was adjudicated in an ecclesiastical court. Even in England and the UK, there was a separate system of (Anglican) ecclesiastical courts handling family-law matters up into the 19th century. “Civil marriage” is an artifact of German Lutheranism.

  50. OrthodoxChick says:

    Dr. Peters states the premise that we regard this civilly married couple (whose baby was Baptized by Pope Francis) as unmarried. Yet we would consider couples of “two Protestants, two Jews, two Muslims, two Hindus, two Animists, two You-Name-Its” as civilly married. I’m not sure that’s precisely the premise we’re operating under, is it? Aren’t we operating under the premise that two Catholics must be married Sacramentally (validly, canonically) in the Church and if not, then we consider them to be unmarried? If that’s the case, then we regard “two Protestants, two Jews, two Muslims, two Hindus, two Animists, two You-Name-Its” to also be unmarried Sacramentally. As far as I can tell, they’re all in the same boat. All may well be married civilly, but not Sacramentally and not canonically. The “two You-Name-Its” would need to go through RCIA and convert. The civilly married (but not Sacramentally/canonically married) Catholic couple might not technically need RCIA if they both received all of their Sacraments validly (though it wouldn’t be a bad idea to request that they go through it anyway, assuming good, solid catechesis of any given RCIA program – which is also debateable). Instead, the civilly married Catholic couple would need to enter into some process with the Diocesan marriage tribunal. Either way, Catholic or “You-Name-It”, their marital status still needs to be worked through canonically and Sacramentally one way or another. Yet, if the parents express a desire to revert/convert and raise their child as Catholic, neither situation holds up the Baptism, correct?

    So apparently, I’m still not understanding the question and/or problem.

    If the canon law remains as-is and unchanged, then what needs to happen is that the Church, through her bishops, needs to do a much better job of communicating the law, and the consequences of disregarding it, to everyone, Catholic, and potential-future-Catholic alike. What’s preventing the USCCB from putting up a web page that’s geared toward today’s low-info Catholic? If they slap a title on it like “I’m Catholic – Why can’t I have a Destination Wedding?” then tons of brides-to-be will swing by the page and become catechized about the fact that a civil marriage has nothing to do with receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony, and yes, ceremonial locale (Catholic Church vs. white sandy beach) affects the validity/invalidity of receipt of the Sacrament of Matrimony. No, a J.P. is NOT the same thing as a validly ordained Catholic priest, etc. This is a topic that no one to my recollection covered in our pre-Cana retreat.

  51. robtbrown says:

    The idea that non Catholics civilly married are considered naturally married but that Catholics who are civilly married are not considered naturally married does not make much sense to me. The right to marriage is a natural right.

    Oneros says,
    As it does seem sort of bizarre to say that in a civil ceremony two Hindus are naturally married, two Protestants are Sacramentally married, but two Catholics aren’t anything at all.

    That is exactly the point, but we can extend it to Protestant marriage. Let’s take two cases: In the first, two Protestants have a wedding in a Protestant church. In the second, two Protestants go to a Justice of the Peace and are civilly married by someone who is a Protestant. Neither fulfills the requirement for canonical form, but the second would seem to exclude any notion of the Faith in marriage. How can both be considered Sacramental?

  52. anilwang says:

    OrthodoxChick says: ” If that’s the case, then we regard “two Protestants, two Jews, two Muslims, two Hindus, two Animists, two You-Name-Its” to also be unmarried Sacramentally. As far as I can tell, they’re all in the same boat.”

    Not quite. Whether the marriage is sacramental or not is not the question. According to canon law, the non-Catholics married outside the church are in valid marriages, but a Catholic not married in the Church (without dispensation) is in an invalid marriage. If you listen to marriage seminars and homilies, you’ll repeatedly hear that in this case a marriage never happened. So they’re not in the same boat.

    Your view seems to be consistent with Oneros’s reference to Encyclical “Arcanum” of Leo XIII which says: “the Holy Church of God has always detested and forbidden clandestine marriages (i.e. marriages outside the Church)…such statements do not deny the sacramental character of marriage so contracted; but they do condemn as sacrilegious that reception of the sacrament which indeed lays open the source of grace, yet places an obstacle in the way of the sacrament’s efficacy.”

    But it is not what is taught today. That being said, the Penny Catechism, question 308 does get pretty close to summarizing the theology of Arcanum.

    The theology of marriage needs to be cleared up, since the Council of Trent solution to clandestine marriages has muddied the waters. With due respect to Pope Francis, I don’t think he’s the best person to do the clarification, and as much as I love and admire Pope Benedict XVI and think him the greatest Pope in my lifetime, I would be much more comfortable with Pope John Paul II settling the issue since he had such a deep knowledge of the theology of marriage.

    OrthodoxChick says: “What’s preventing the USCCB from putting up a web page that’s geared toward today’s low-info Catholic? If they slap a title on it like “I’m Catholic – Why can’t I have a Destination Wedding?” ”

    Many such web sites exist, both at the USCCB level and the local diocese level. Do a google search yourself. The fact that you aren’t aware of them, despite being and above average informed Catholic tells you a lot about the effectiveness of such web sites. The key problem is that such information isn’t communicated in homilies and Catholic schools, and the rare times they are, they are more proposed as an option than a requirement. I wasn’t confirmed because I was told that it was a nice to have, but it was totally voluntary. I wasn’t even informed that “good Catholics are confirmed”, since I would have gone to confirmation classes (if only out of a sense of duty) since I saw myself as a “good boy” and tried to live up to that standard.

    Until this issue is fixed. Until the faith is taught without apology, this mess with marriages will continue. Things might have changed with the introduction of the 1991 Catechism and the success of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, but the world’s understanding or marriage has also deteriorated, and the average Catholic is following the world, so I don’t think things are too different today.

    In the mean time, we have children of these marriages to consider.

  53. Lavrans says:

    Again, if one can be sacramentally married without the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, then what is the point of the sacrament.

    Can anyone actually answer that?

  54. jhayes says:

    WHY was it done by the Pope and not any one of the zillion other Catholic priests in Rome?

    I assume because the the Pope wanted to emphasize the message that he has given before – that we should not push people away from the Lord because we consider them to be sinners. He believes in teaching by doing the action hinself rather than just talking about it.

    The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reports that the Pope mentioned the example of an unwed mother coming to Church to ask for baptism for her child to exemplify the error of allowing protocol to distance people from the Lord.

    The paper quotes the Pope:

    A girl-mother goes to the parish to ask for Baptism for her child and hears “a Christian” say, “No, you can’t have it, you’re not married.”

    “Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term” and not to have an abortion. “What does she find? A closed door,” as do so many. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors. So when we take this path…we are not doing good to people, the People of God.” Jesus “instituted seven sacraments, and with this approach we institute the eighth, the sacrament of the pastoral customs office.”

    HERE

  55. LadyMarchmain says:

    My head is spinning from all the canon law and I’m out of Mystic Monk coffee. So this may sound like the Emperor has no clothes but, isn’t it as simple as this:

    If Catholics choose a civil marriage because it will be easier to get an annulment, then they don’t have the right intention towards their marriage and it should be annulled.

    Am I the only one who has this fantasy that the Pope, known to be so pastoral and humble, might have offered to marry this couple and then baptize their baby? What a message THAT might have sent.

    Our Lord turned water into wine at the Marriage of Cana. Why would anyone who could have that resist?

  56. jhayes says:

    Vatican Insider says:

    “In a handbook on baptism published by the Archdiocese when it was led by the Cardinal, Bergoglio reiterated very clearly that “baptism cannot be denied to children of single mothers, of couples united by only civil union, to the children of divorced people now involved in a new union, or of people now distant from the practice of Christian life”.

    HERE

  57. vandalia says:

    This reminds me of a point that my Canon Law professor emphasized.

    Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:

    2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

    In order to delay a baptism, “founded hope” must be “altogether lacking.” That is an incredibly high standard. As it was explained to me, that basically means you are at a hospital in Mongolia, and there is not another Catholic within 300 miles. Perhaps more relevant to the situation of most of us, it can be argued that if the child is brought to the Church by an aunt/neighbor/babysitter against the express wish of the parents, then perhaps the standard is met (or perhaps I should say “failed to be met.’)

    However, I believe that if a parent/guardian presents a child for baptism, founded hope (i.e. not relying on a miracle) cannot be considered “altogether lacking.”

  58. Ben Kenobi says:

    “It would almost give the impression that the un-baptized child’s soul is being held ransom as a way to bring the parents back to the Church.”

    Let me ask another question. If you believe that baptism from the priest is efficacious, why would you deprive yourself submission to the authority of the priest in your marriage?

  59. Paul M. says:

    Lavrans said “Again, if one can be sacramentally married without the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, then what is the point of the sacrament.”

    Think of it this way. One cannot be sacramentally married without the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. However, one can be sacramentally married without the requirement of canonical form.

    The requirement of canonical form is a legal construct in which the Latin Catholics to be married present themselves to a cleric with jurisdiction and exchange matrimonial consent before the cleric. Roman Pontiffs instituted this requirement in the Latin Church under pain of the validity of the marriage. Thus, if canonical form is not followed, then the marriage is not valid. (The Church has the power to prescribe conditions that affect the validity of a marriage; See e.g. Council of Trent, 24th session, on the sacrament of marriage, canon IV.)

    If the Latin Church did not require this legal construct in her canon law under pain of the validity of the marriage, then the Latin Catholics to be married could exchange their matrimonial consent in other ways (i.e. before a judge or whatever). Those ways would, then, be a sacrament, because a valid marriage between the baptized is a sacrament. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, in fact.

    robtbrown said “The idea that . . . Catholics who are civilly married are not considered naturally married does not make much sense to me.”

    There is no such thing as a merely natural marriage between Catholics. A natural marriage between the baptized is, ipso facto, a sacramental marriage. Thus, if the marriage is a valid marriage, it is always a sacrament. So the question hinges upon the question of validity of the marriage, not the sacramentality.

  60. The Masked Chicken says:

    Wow, what an interesting problem. Let’s top it off with yet another aspect of the mess: two Catholics get civilly married and then civilly divorced. It is much harder to convince said people that they cannot marry again than someone who got married in a Church before a priest. In fact, it is not at all clear that two Protestants who are civilly married are sacramentally married simply because they are baptized, the defects in the Protestant understanding of the indissolubility of marriage, in many cases, amounting to an annulment status of the marriage, as it would be adjudicated by a Tribunal. I am in favor of keeping marriage discipline fairly tight.

    Is the problem really with sacamentality of marriage or Canonical Form, however? Is not the real problem that marriage is not recognized by civil authorities, everywhere, to contain something beyond a mere contract? Not everyone is baptized, but everyone carries the Imago Dei and any union, even under the Natural Law, is a vague intimation of the Divine Order, of the relationship between God and his Church, by virtue of the union of the man and a the woman. In an ideal world, the question of Canonical Form would simply not come up because the entire world would be Catholic and bound by whatever obedience the Church felt it prudent to impose. The only reason such problems occur is because much of the world is not Catholic, so rationalizations and difficult cases have to be considered. The simplest, although not easiest way to solve this problem is to convert the entire world to Catholicism, so, get out there and get going! Then, these sorts of questions will be rendered moot.

    The Chicken

  61. Ben Kenobi says:

    “In fact, it is not at all clear that two Protestants who are civilly married are sacramentally married simply because they are baptized, the defects in the Protestant understanding of the indissolubility of marriage, in many cases, amounting to an annulment status of the marriage, as it would be adjudicated by a Tribunal. I am in favor of keeping marriage discipline fairly tight.”

    Perhaps Father can explain this? I was under the impression that sacramentally – if a convert were to become Catholic after a divorce, and then were to remarry, that they could not get married provided that their original wife (ugh!) were still alive. If this is true, then simply converting would permit someone to remarry, and someone who was Catholic could leave the church, marry civilly, divorce, re-enter the Church and then remarry.

    Thoughts? And yes, there are prominent examples of precisely this, so I am curious. It’s come up before and people have asked me this question. I don’t see how the Church can sanction remarriage to a Catholic spouse after divorce with a still living non-Catholic spouse as opposed to reconciliation, given Catholic understanding of marriage.

  62. Unwilling says:

    [LadyMarchmain] There is a fascinating presentation of these issues in the novel by Catholic-convert authoress, Muriel Spark, “Mandlebaum Gate”.

  63. Jeannie_C says:

    amenamen:

    Yes, you are right, we were told our marriage was “sacramental” due to our Baptisms. When we asked about convalidation we were told it wasn’t necessary as neither of us were R.C. at the time of our marriage.
    When we went through R.C.I.A. converts who were previously married had to obtain an annullment from their original protestant spouses before being admitted to the R.C. Church, so that answers Ben Kenobi’s question about Catholics leaving the church, marrying civilly, divorcing and re-entering the Church and then remarrying.

    Ben Kenobi:

    You hit the nail on the head in identifying the Protestant view on sacramental marriage – some do, some don’t view the status this way or that, an example of how divided they are in their many denominations.

  64. OrthodoxChick says:

    anilwang said, “Not quite. Whether the marriage is sacramental or not is not the question. According to canon law, the non-Catholics married outside the church are in valid marriages, but a Catholic not married in the Church (without dispensation) is in an invalid marriage. If you listen to marriage seminars and homilies, you’ll repeatedly hear that in this case a marriage never happened. So they’re not in the same boat.”

    OK, so given what you’ve stated, and stipulating that you are correct, is this not the case that non-Catholics married outside the Church are in valid marriages precisely because they were not Baptized Catholics at the time of their marriage? Whereas two Baptized Catholics who are married outside the Church were not in valid marriages exactly because once Baptized, they became members of Christ’s Body. They are now bound to operate within Christ’s Body as Her members. Marrying outside of Christ’s Body can’t be possible, then. It simply can’t exist. Can it?

  65. And in the meantime, while we’re parsing the fine jot and tittle of Canon Law, whether the Supreme Legislator can do what he did, and taking an absolutist stance in pride that we can judge the motives of the parents or anyone else…a child was baptised and became united with the People of God.

    Deo gratias.

  66. Jeannie_C says:

    At the time of our civil marriage, we were Anglicans. The 39 Articles of Faith clearly stated there were two Sacraments only – Baptism and Holy Communion, yet in Holy Communion there was the written denial as per the articles of faith of the True Presence. So, when an Anglican speaks of the sacramentality of marriage, they are fluffing, Catholic wannabees. Now they are removing reference to sin and the devil from their baptisms, so how does the R.C. Church view their baptism as being valid? I know this is off-topic, but it was our Baptisms that rendered our protestant civil marriage as sacramental. Perhaps all who go through R.C.I.A. should be conditionally re-baptized so that we begin our lives in the R.C. Church on the same footing as other Catholics. And perhaps all who married before converting should receive a R.C. convalidation due to the fact that marriage isn’t viewed as a sacrament in protestant churches, at least not in the way Catholicism understands it to be. After 40 years of successful marriage I have no doubt our marriage received the graces God intended us to have, but we didn’t fit into any pigeon hole to receive that blessing from the R.C. Church when we converted and we were not alone in this.

  67. Jeannie_C says:

    I’m all for baptizing children of parents in irregular marriages because the graces of Baptism infuse the child regardless of the worthiness/unworthiness of either the Priest or the parents. Baptize first, deal with the parents after the fact, but don’t hold the child’s soul hostage.

  68. Ben Kenobi says:

    “perhaps all who married before converting should receive a R.C. convalidation due to the fact that marriage isn’t viewed as a sacrament in protestant churches, at least not in the way Catholicism understands it to be.”

    From what I understand – baptism is valid even if someone who isn’t Christian performs one in the name of the father, son and holy spirit. So unless the COE chooses to discard this, their baptisms remain valid. And yes, this concerns me as I was baptized as one many years ago.

    Marriage is a bit dicier. For it to be sacramental, the parties would have to be open to children, understanding of a lifelong union and freely undertaken. I can think of a substantial number of protestant marriages that would qualify for all three and a considerable number that do not.

  69. Lavrans says:

    @Jeannie_C: So you’re saying there is no point in marrying in the Catholic Church – the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony – because all marriages are more or less the same and graced by God? That all the preparation, checking of baptismal records, ceremonies in the Church, vows, the presence of a priest or deacon….all that is meaningless outside of sentimentality?

    Ho-kay.

  70. Supertradmum says:

    Four quick points, but first, thank you Fr. Z., for tackling this.

    First, at least one of the godparents has to be a practicing Catholic to oversee the training and formation of the child.

    Second, we forget that living in an irregular marriage is living IN sin-either fornication or adultery and. therefore, the couple is living in mortal sin without sanctifying grace. How is a priest helping this couple to salvation by not having the marriage regularized first? And how does a couple in sin raise a child Catholic?

    Third, too many Catholics see baptism as some type of magic, which make the child holy for the rest of his life without formation. Of course, this is the protestant position of “once saved, always saved”. Magical thinking has seeped into the consciousness of too many Catholics who really do not understand either Original Sin or baptism

    Fourth, all babies must be baptized asap. Too many cultures, and here is America it is obvious, put off baptism until all the relatives get together for a party. In the meantime, the baby is still in Original Sin and not an adopted child of God.

    That the Pope did this, imho, causes confusion without the type of discussion on this blog and others. Why could not the report include a subtitle that the couple was planning on sanitizing their marriage, etc.?

  71. Cathy says:

    Lady Marchmain, why would an annulment be required if they are not considered married in the first place? Maybe it’s just me, but the number of annulments requested and granted in the US is scandalous. If we are to follow the Church’s law regarding the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, shouldn’t we and our children know these laws and uphold these laws prior to courtship – does courtship even exist today in a meaningful sense? With all of the pre-Cana classes and retreats, have the number of divorces and annulment requests gone down? Has our understanding of what God sees as marriage increased or diminished in the current age?

  72. Jeannie_C says:

    Lavrans:

    No, no and no! I am saying there is EVERY reason to be married in the R.C. Church. The checking of Baptismal records, the marriage prep, the works. Marriage is a Sacrament, I fully believe that, and even more so today with the secular marriage industry promoting the material aspect of a wedding, all the more reason for the Church’s preparation of the couple. Not only for the day but for the lives of the couple, the nurturing of faith in the hoped for children. My husband and I had been married for 19 years by the time we converted, original marriage for both of us, and had there been the option of a convalidation we’d have welcomed it. Whatever graces God chose to give for this 40 year marriage to have survived we have been grateful for. I’m sorry if I didn’t express myself clearly, my fault, but I’m in complete agreement with you and the R.C. Church. As a convert, born to a non-practicing R.C. father and non-practicing Anglican mother, I thank God every day for reception into the Catholic Church, and for those cradle Catholics who have defended this Church through the ages.

  73. JacobWall says:

    It seems to me that many of the comments here are looking for a fool-proof solution to make the whole marriage-baptism system perfect. The bottom line is that whatever the system, there will be “escape routes” as Phil_NL calls them. (This includes the Orthodox system. Their approach has its own problems, such as allowing divorce and remarriage in the church of someone in a valid marriage. From what I understand, this, too, is an accident of history resulting from the Eastern Churches being given full control over all marriages.) No system is fool-proof.

    Now, this doesn’t mean there can’t be improvement, especially to laws created to address certain problems that are no longer exist to any extent.

    As for the question of baptism, in the end, priests do need some degree of flexibility to “make a call.” This means they will make some less-than-perfect calls. But if the Church tries to come up with a fool-proof set of laws pertaining to parents’ state within the Church and marriage attempting to eliminate all possibility of less-than-perfect calls, all it will do is make the situation more complicated and more difficult for parish priests.

    A priest I know, while at my parish, baptized the infants of one family who never comes to Mass and one couple who is not married (at all.) I know from talking to him that he is very concerned about such cases. I do not know what measures he took in talking to the parents before the baptism – I didn’t think it was my business to be investigating. One of the boys, who lived behind our house (and next to our parish church) for a while quite proudly told everyone that it was his church. At least they have that much – identifying themselves as being part of the Church.

    I also know that this same priest has denied baptism in some more “interesting” requests, so he certainly does give the issue consideration.

    I can imagine that for priests it’s pretty hard to strike that balance between knowing when it’s better to withhold the sacrament of baptism and when it’s best to administer it. Both are a manner of offering pastoral care. I don’t look down my nose at priests who seem to offer it “too freely;” if I remember correctly, Pope Benedict, by his own account, made some transition about becoming more willing to offer baptism or confirmation more “liberally.”

  74. poohbear says:

    So if its not required to be married in the Church in order to baptize your child in that same Church, what’s to stop a same sex couple (who were baptized Catholic) from demanding their adopted child be baptized in the Church? Where does this end? How do we defend and promote marriage if this is what the Holy Father presents to the world? Since the majority of Catholics don’t know much, if anything, about canon law, all the world sees is the pope promoting Catholics who have flaunted what the Church teaches and requires, whether that was his intention or not.

  75. Johnno says:

    Person/Couple wants to baptize the child -

    1. Are they baptized Catholics?
    -If yes, proceed to step 2.
    - If no, counsel them on what Baptism is and the necessity for the Catholic faith in order to convert them. If successful have all of them baptized together (assuming the parents themselves haven’t been baptized validly), or for expediency have a godparent who possesses the faith or the priest himself baptize the child first and help raise him while preparing the parents for their own entry into the Catholic Church.

    2. Are the parents practicing Catholics and committed to Catholic Teachings/beliefs?
    - If yes, proceed to step 3.
    - If no, counsel them about the importance of the Catholic Faith and Baptism’s role in it. If successful and they agree, proceed to step 3.

    3. Do they agree to raise the child in the Catholic faith?
    - If yes, proceed with Baptism.
    - If no, which would be odd, counsel them on the importance for themselves and the child. If they agree, then proceed with Baptism.

    If in all scenarios, the parents are obstinate and refuse to follow or acknowledge the faith or raise the child to be a Catholic. Then there is nothing anyone can do about it save continue to counsel/argue with them. But do not throw pearls before swine. And furthermore if the child should unfortunately go to hell when he dies, then the mark of baptism will only further his misery and pain there.

    If Pope Francis and whoever was involved with this counseled the parents and the parents agreed to be counseled and come back to the Catholic Church and resolve their issues and raise the child as a Catholic and Pope Francis preached to all of them, then there is no issue. We are all perfectly willing to welcome the prodigal sons, but of course the prodigal sons must be repentant and true in their desire to return. If not then there is no point.

    And the press or whoever is reporting these things must make sure to take all due diligence to get all the facts right in this matter. Because it sounds like there Pope didn’t just willy nilly baptize the child of a couple who don’t give a fig about the faith and just want the photo op and vain community-ness entitlements, but rather that perhaps they actually are intent on returning to the faith and sentimentalizing their marriage and doing what’s necessary. That’s a world of difference compared to the cafetolics who just want a baptism because they like the aura of traditional things like that without any of the commitment or significance.

  76. Supertradmum says:

    All marriages are not the same and civil unions among Catholics are not recognized by the Church. Period. Sacramental marriages must be performed either in the Nuptial Blessing form or in the Mass for Matrimony. We recognize Protestant marriages between two Protestants done in a Protestant church, as they are Christians. The fact that the couple was married as Protestants and not as fallen away Catholics is the key here to validity. The same would be true for Jewish marriages. Sometimes people want convalidation, but it is not necessary. Blessed John Paul II in On the Family from the early ’80s asked for a couple by couple consideration.

    Rules for Catholics or fallen away Catholics are very different. Sacraments were instituted by Christ to give sanctifying grace and these actions are efficacious; that is, what is said is being done is being done.

    Not so with civil marriages, which are merely a government’s requirement and has nothing to do with God and His mandate.

    Also, there is confusion here as to Catholics and non-Catholics. Catholics are covered, from baptism by Canon Law. Non-Catholics are not. There is a huge distinction between a marriage involving a Catholic and one between non-Catholics who have never been Catholic. Catholic apostates are in a different position with regard to the Church than Lutherans. This should be obvious.

    In addition, Canon Law, which all can access easily on line, is clear about marriages in and out of the Church. I also suggest looking at the long entry in the CCC on marriage, which is clear.

    Some commentators here have also forgotten that marriage is not merely between two people but is a “liturgical act and gives “ecclesiastical” rights and duties to the couple. It seems to me the Pope has overlooked for some reason only known to him, the duties of raising children Catholic which is part of sacramental marriage. I am assuming that the Pope took Blessed John Paul II at his word and considered this case on its own, but it is very undermining for so many of us who try and help people to understand the glorious sacrament of marriage.

  77. Supertradmum says:

    Cathy, good marriages come from good families with good marriages. Do not blame the diocesan programs, as holy marriages have to be witnessed and experienced as well as learned from books.

  78. jhayes says:

    what’s to stop a same sex couple (who were baptized Catholic) from demanding requesting their adopted child be baptized in the Church?

    Nothing, I would think.

  79. Charlotte Allen says:

    I’m a beneficiary of the Church’s laws on canonical form, so it’s impossible for me not to support them. My husband is not a Catholic, and he had been long-divorced when I met him. Fortunately for me, his first wife was a baptized, although fallen-away Catholic, and the two, both college students at the time, were married not by a Catholic priest but by a Unitarian minister in the Yale University chapel. That meant–and this is why I’m ever so grateful–that that short-lived marriage could be quickly ruled “invalid as to form” and there didn’t have to be an annulment process that would have taken years and years. So all my husband had to do was contact his first wife and obtain a copy of her baptismal certificate, the marriage certificate, and the divorce decree. Eight weeks after we filed those papers with the Archdiocese of Washington, we had the requisite ruling and were free to marry in the Church. (We also had to obtain a dispensation for “disparity of cult” because although my husband’s parents had been regular [Methodist] churchgoers, they never got around to having either of their sons baptized.)

    But this does lead me to question why the Church regards a civil-ceremony (or other non-Catholic ceremony) marriage involving a Catholic as “invalid as to form,” but regards a civil-ceremony marriage between two non-Catholics as completely valid. Why not regard all non-Catholic marriages as “invalid as to form”–since, in fact, they are? Particularly since many people who marry outside the Church marry for frivolous reasons, don’t regard marriage as binding until death, and so forth. There seems to be a definite tension in canon law and marital theology between marriage as a natural institution and marriage as a canonical institution. I’m no canon lawyer, however, and I can’t even begin to deal with this issue. I just feel lucky that my husband and his first wife picked a Unitarian minister to marry them.

  80. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Catholics are held to a higher standard, because by virtue of the Church, they participate more fully in the life of God and His revelation to all humanity. They have received all the graces of being children of God, whether or not they choose to use them. Similarly, Christians are held to a higher standard than pagans.

    Moving along… Catholics who don’t have any priest around or any opportunity to marry in a Catholic church (I can’t remember if the period is “within 6 months” or “within a year”) are allowed to just pronounce vows before witnesses (preferably inside a Catholic church) and thus be validly married in the Church. But this also assumes that if a priest does show up, they’ll report in and get the extra blessings from a priest, etc. (IIRC, and I’m not a canon lawyer but I do remember this.)

  81. Jason Keener says:

    Such interesting questions and comments here. Mother Church has authority over Her children and can decide what is the proper form for a Catholic marriage. For good or ill, She has decided that an essential requirement for a Catholic marriage is that it take place in a Church with the rest of God’s family. Christ elevated Marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, so that it is no longer just a natural institution. Apart from the situation of clandestine marriages, I can see why the Church insists that Catholics observe the proper form of marriage because marriage for two Catholics is more than something between two people and the civil government. Marriage is a sacrament that is a public sign for the whole Church. This reality cannot be expressed in a courthouse.

    I also wonder how in the Western Church the couple ministers the sacrament of marriage to each other while in the East, the priest effects the sacrament through the crowning. Aren’t these approaches mutually exclusive? Who really essentially administers the Sacrament of Marriage? The couple to each other or the priest? Hmm…

  82. jbas says:

    These comments are helpful to me because they remind me that not every practicing Catholic understands the difference between canonical form and sacramental validity, or between sacramental marriage and natural marriage. I tend to assume practicing Catholics have a basic understanding of these distinctions.
    As for baptism, I’d prefer that someone in authority just tell me what to do and what not to do. I can’t keep a canon lawyer on staff, or telephone the chancery with every exceptional case (I’m afraid the unexceptional cases have become the exception).

  83. There are a lot of comments.

    REMEMBER:

    If you are responding to someone, make sure that the first word/s in your comment is the other person’s name/handle.

    Iron-clad Rule of Z.

    Thanks.

  84. excalibur says:

    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

    The baby is baptized and I say Deo Gratias for that!

  85. robtbrown says:

    Paul M. says:
    robtbrown said “The idea that . . . Catholics who are civilly married are not considered naturally married does not make much sense to me.”

    There is no such thing as a merely natural marriage between Catholics. A natural marriage between the baptized is, ipso facto, a sacramental marriage. Thus, if the marriage is a valid marriage, it is always a sacrament. So the question hinges upon the question of validity of the marriage, not the sacramentality.

    There can be no Matrimonial Sacramentality without both parties having been Baptised.

    But if one of the spouses is Baptised and the other is a Jew, then it is obviously not a Sacramental marriage. If a dispensation is granted, then, according to you, the Church has given permission for a Catholic to enter into an invalid marriage.

  86. Supertradmum says:

    jhayes, there would be no reason, theologically, if a homosexual couple want, for some reason, to raise their adopted child Catholic, and were determined to do that, to not baptize the child. But, of course, the problem is one of formation, as how can the child be formed to think and act like a Catholic in that circumstance?

  87. Mrs. Bear says:

    I know of two women who are baptized Catholics who had a civil marriage.
    They have two children through IVF.
    Would they be refused baptism for their children?
    The difficulty would be that you may have a gay-friendly parish that provides baptisms but if they move and request a baptism for any other children – what would the new priest do??

    I also have an issue with the fact that those of us with children and older children attending mass, who are going to see this article and wonder what is the point of the sacraments? We see and hear about other people and even family members who time and time again have their children baptized yet never step foot in a church for even C or E. We can say the same thing about couples getting married after living together for years or kids going for their first communion or confirmation who don’t go to mass.
    And the Pope is allowing someone who is not married in the eyes of the Church and are living together – to get their child baptized yet this couple will say YES (during this sacred sacrament) to teaching them the faith – though they are not attempting to live it. Which would seem like they are lying. How do we teach our children let alone the MSM what this means?

  88. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says,

    We recognize Protestant marriages between two Protestants done in a Protestant church, as they are Christians. The fact that the couple was married as Protestants and not as fallen away Catholics is the key here to validity.

    It’s a key that makes no sense. What if someone is Baptised Catholic as a baby but raised as a Protestant? Does that invalidate the marriage?

    A natural marriage is effected by a two fold bond, physical (consummation) and a psychological (consent). How does being a fallen away Catholic undermine that any more than being a Protestant?

  89. Imrahil says:

    The basic principles are of course probably well known. By a slight affinity for completeness, allow me to repeat them here:

    1. Marriage is a sacrament which is effected by expressing the marriage consent to each other in appropriate words.

    2. The Church has of her own volition and, in a systematical sense, arbitrarily commanded (from ancient times) that we have to do that in front of witnesses, one of which should preferably be a priest (or exceptionally a layman with his bishop’s permission), who then can give the – distinct – weeding blessing afterwards.

    [I do not mean "arbitrarily" in the moral sense; she has had good reasons. I mean in the systematical sense; she was by no means bound by any divine law to do so. "And do you know why I give this order? Because I can", as the drill sergeant said to the recruit.]

    3. The Church, at the Council of Trent, has arbitrarily [in the same sense] ordained that henceforward no. 2 should be necessary for validity, while this had hitherto not been so. (Only legitimacy it was, then.)

    4. Two Protestant marry validly because the Church in her legislatory power has not seen fit to extend no. 3 to them (though I am unsure about the witnesses; it is clear for the priest). There is no deeper reason necessary involved.

    A fallen-away Catholic is by law treated under the “semel catholicus semper catholicus” principle, though in the years 1983 through 2009, or so, he was explicitly exempted from the duty of form under certain conditions. Thus, if he married in the city hall in 2008, his marriage is valid. If he married in the city hall in 2010, his marriage is invalid.

    It really is that legalistic. (Did I mention that I was German?)

    - By the way: this was not meant as criticism of our Mother the Church*. I just like pointed explanations somewhat, forgive me, for their own sake. [*For one thing, explaining perhaps the change of 2009: how likely is a fallen-away Catholic to really conclude an otherwise valid marriage? What then if after losing his partner he comes back to the Faith, and finds out that his marriage being treated as valid until proved otherwise, though it may well be not, and thus he cannot marry?]

  90. Imrahil says:

    Note: The layman as marriage assistant, a rather modern invention, can of course not give a marriage blessing.

  91. Mary T says:

    Johnno said, “If Pope Francis and whoever was involved with this counseled the parents and the parents agreed to be counseled and come back to the Catholic Church and resolve their issues and raise the child as a Catholic and Pope Francis preached to all of them, then there is no issue.”

    Excalibur said, “The baby is baptized and I say Deo Gratias for that!”

    Agreed. I want babies to bebaptized, and I am not privy to the situation of this couple. But my question again, which no one has addressed: WHY of all the married couples in Italy with babies to be baptized, was THIS couple picked to have their baby baptized by the Pope in the Sistine Chapel? Why not a regular priest in a small church? Why such a highly publicized honor? I am sincerely asking! It is very bizarre to me, and as far as I know, it is a first.

  92. jhayes says:

    Supertradmum, in my 10:31 am comment I quoted this from Cardinal Bergoglio’s tenure as archbishop:’

    “baptism cannot be denied to children of single mothers, of couples united by only civil union, to the children of divorced people now involved in a new union, or of people now distant from the practice of Christian life”.

    Seems as if same-sex couples would fit in there somewhere.

  93. jhayes says:

    Mary T., I tried to answer your question in my 10:31 am comment.

    Francis teaches by doing.

  94. Mary T says:

    jhayes – thanks…sorry, didn’t see it; my eyes were watering after scrolling through so many comments!

  95. Nan says:

    @JeannieC, the Catholic Church believes that baptisms in the name of the father, son and holy spirit are valid, no matter the source; while it’s typical for a priest or deacon to baptize, baptisms validity is dependent on the proper form, not who baptized.

    With regard to marriage, the reason the Church recognizes marriages that take place outside the Church when the married couple is not Catholic is that the ordinary ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the man and woman marrying. The priest or deacon is merely a witness for the Church, thus the non-Catholic marriages are considered valid assuming it’s a first marriage for both.

  96. Uxixu says:

    An excellent question, Mary T.

    At the very least an effort should be made to catechize and counsel but ultimately that shouldn’t be enough for a ceremony inside a Church. It’s all very well intentioned and reasoned but it disregards the commitment of the parents and only encourages bad behavior. I am most concerned about the further religious life of that infant though when wayward parents aren’t… encouraged to be better than that, though for those who fall away and only come back for their major life events being ceremonialized in the photo-op without regard to what they’re doing. The basic requirement of a couple classes seems to the MO at my parish and it seems to be a reasonable minimum standard… for a Christian society. If the concern is the infant and nothing else, why even require that, though?

    The prevalence and propriety of infant Baptism assumes the trappings of Christendom and that the larger society is not antithetical to the purpose of the Church. I’m reminded of the ancient Catechumens in the environment of the similarly antithetical pagan Rome (at least when it was indifferent instead of in outright hostile persecution mode) … At the very least, the regular attendance and observances of the parents, (Confession and Penance for falling away), as well as completing their own Sacraments or at least starting on RCIA or what not would seem a more reasonable compromise to just saying no and/or looking to the ancient Church.

    I see Marriage much like Baptism. In it’s fullest it’s best done in the Church and Marriages by heretical sects should be seen just as their Baptisms and valid just as the emergency Baptism done by a Catholic lay individual in a remote setting with the proper traditionally Trinitarian form. IOW, they shouldn’t be repeated or given a Nuptual Mass.

  97. mr205 says:

    I think this is a huge problem in the United States because it is a protestant country where the concept of “canonical form” is foreign. I’ve known at least four couples who have been married outside of the Church because the fiancée was protestant and the fiancé’s faith was basically non-existent or he was honestly ignorant of the church’s teachings on canonical form. Most of these people came from a family that dropped the kids off to receive sacrament prep, that was their only experience of Catholicism growing up.

    In one situation, the protestant wife worked with me. They enrolled their children in Catholic schools. They attended Mass, wife observed. Their oldest child was ready for first communion and all of a sudden it was discovered that the husband and wife weren’t married in the eyes of the Church. The Pastor was very kind and offered to go get a couple of witnesses and fix it right there and then. The wife freaked out and said no way. Her late father had married them, a Baptist preacher. She wasn’t getting remarried. So, the pastor properly instructed the husband he was not to receive communion. Of course, she told our entire office about it. She was very upset and didn’t understand. I was protestant at the time and I didn’t understand either. To her it was an insult to her late father.

    In my RCIA class, a young couple enrolled. The fiancée was there to take the class to learn about the faith of her future husband. The question was asked, “where are y’all getting married?” “The Baptist Church.” Yikes. Well, the Priest started working on a dispensation.

    I went to a friend’s wedding. He’s protestant. They married in the Presbyterian Church. I had never met the fiancée before the wedding. Two weeks after the wedding, he says to me, thinking nothing about it, “My fiancée was raised Catholic.” Yikes.

    We are in a world where confusion reins about marriage and Catholicism. Many in my generation (millennials) received nothing of a Catholic education growing up.

  98. Paul M. says:

    Robtbrown said: “There can be no Matrimonial Sacramentality without both parties having been Baptised. But if one of the spouses is Baptised and the other is a Jew, then it is obviously not a Sacramental marriage.”

    Indeed. Given that I limited my initial comments to marriages “between the baptized,” I didn’t say anything different from this.

    Robtbrown also said: If a dispensation is granted, then, according to you, the Church has given permission for a Catholic to enter into an invalid marriage. (emphasis added)

    That does not follow at all from what I said. I’m trying to figure out how you concluded this from my previous post because I explicitly limited my comments to marriages “between the baptized.” A marriage between a Christian and an adherent of Judaism is not a marriage “between the baptized” but instead a mixed marriage.

    The point of my initial response to you is that marriages between Christians are sacraments and cannot be merely natural marriages. It appears that you agree with this based on your response. So, my conclusion from that still holds, that in those cases the issue is marital validity, not sacramentality.

    In the “protestants before the justice of the pease” case that you mentioned, the sacramentality is already there by virtue of baptism. We could even modify this to “protestants in common-law marriage,” and the sacramentality would still be there because of baptism. So the question is, did those non-Catholic Christians enter into a marriage? (i.e. in the three goods of marriage sense)

  99. Joe in Canada says:

    Imrahil said A fallen-away Catholic is by law treated under the “semel catholicus semper catholicus” principle, though in the years 1983 through 2009, or so, he was explicitly exempted from the duty of form under certain conditions. Thus, if he married in the city hall in 2008, his marriage is valid. If he married in the city hall in 2010, his marriage is invalid.
    I believe that “fallen away” meant more than just ‘non-practicing’, it meant a public renunciation of the faith of some sort, e.g. regular attendance at a non-Catholic church. But as you say, since 2010 that’s been cleared up.
    The necessity of form for validity is interesting as in the Byzantine tradition (Catholic and Orthodox) not only is the presence of the priest necessary, but he is the minister of the Sacrament. He confers it, not the couple.

  100. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Phil_NL (6:21 am),

    Thank you for your response. I think Augustinus Lehmkuhl addressed part of your comment in 1910: “It matters not whether the [baptized] non-Catholic considers marriage a sacrament or not, or whether he intends to effect a sacrament or not. Provided only he intends to contract a true marriage, and expresses the requisite consent, this intention and this expression are sufficient to constitute a sacrament. But if he is absolutely determined not to effect a sacrament, then, of course, the production of a sacrament would be excluded, but the marriage contract also would be null and void. By Divine ordinance it is essential to Christian marriage that it should be a sacrament; it is not in the power of the contracting parties to eliminate anything from its nature, and a person who has the intention of doing this invalidates the whole ceremony. It is certain, therefore, that marriage contracted between baptized persons is a sacrament, even the so-called mixed marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, provided the non-Catholic has been validly baptized. It is equally certain that marriage between unbaptized persons is not a sacrament in the strict sense of the word.”

    I suppose “intends to contract a true marriage” is a (or ‘the’?) crucial phrase. Does it mean or include ‘indissoluble’? Or need it only include something like ‘without an unconditional intention to dissolve’? If the latter, I am not sure even a ‘prenuptual agreement’ (as referenced by JPManning at 8:09 am) would nullify ‘intent to contract a true marriage’.

    Would the concrete intention (insofar as discoverable) be decisive where eligible baptized man and woman are involved, now as much as in 1910 (as Lehmkuhl explains marriage as sacrament)?

    If so, would not “a civil marriage and a contract between two people granting each other the same rights and obligations as are accorded to the married state” be equally circumstances in which an actual sacramental marriage would be contracted by baptized eligible man and woman intending to contract a true marriage? Would the ‘civil positive law’ involved be able to have any effect on the true intentions and the true resultant sacramental marriage?

    The Council of Trent (Session XXIV, Decree on the Reformation of Marriage, ch. 1) states both “it is not to be doubted, that clandestine marriages, made with the free consent of the contracting parties, are valid and true marriages, so long as the Church has not rendered them invalid; and consequently, that those persons are justly to be condemned, as the holy Synod doth condemn them with anathema, who deny that such marriages are true and valid” and “Those who shall attempt to contract marriage otherwise than in the presence of the parish priest, or of some other priest by permission of the said parish priest, or of the Ordinary, and in the presence of two or three witnesses; the holy Synod renders such wholly incapable of thus contracting and declares such contracts invalid and null, as by the present decree It invalidates and annuls them.”

  101. Kate says:

    Jhayes, thank you for your 10:31 comment that included the quote from Pope Francis’ days as Cardinal Bergoglio, “baptism cannot be denied to children of single mothers, of couples united by only civil union, to the children of divorced people now involved in a new union, or of people now distant from the practice of Christian life”.

    The National Catholic Register has another quote, “In 2009, when still a Cardinal, he apparently told the Italian magazine 30 Giorni:
    ‘The child has absolutely no responsibility for the state of his parents’ marriage. And often a baptism can be a new start for the parents as well.’”
    And..
    “There are, however, many sources that attribute to him the following statement, also when he was still Cardinal Bergoglio:
    ‘In our ecclesiastical region, there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage.

    These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized.’”

    THANK YOU, Pope Francis!

    When I came across this article last night, I didn’t even understand the “problem”. Ed Peters and all of the commentors have parsed this out quite clearly, however.

    When I was a single mother, it never crossed my mind that a priest might object to baptizing my baby. I would have been angry, frustrated and turned off to the Church, I’m sure.

    I never considered until this moment how blessed I was that a good priest not only baptized my baby, but said nothing- – nothing –to make me feel out of place or “wrong”.

    My baby was baptized, and I wanted to be a good mother.

    Many who work in pro-life ministry attest to the fact that a baby can transform a woman from living a sinful, self-centered life into living a moral life of a self-sacrificing mother.

    Love transforms.

    My baby’s father and I were married in a Catholic Church a few months after our baby’s Baptism. We have been married almost twenty-five years. I am sure the graces we received during our wedding have helped us to stay married.

    Pope Francis is right to perform this Baptism. Can you imagine the gratitude of these parents? An honor like this for them and their child? Do you not believe that they will want to do everything in their power to make good on the favor Pope Francis extended to them?

    I would not be surprised if they asked him to marry them in the Church, too.
    (And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he agrees…)

    It also seems clear (as jhayes points out)that homosexuals requesting Baptism propose a different situation altogether.

  102. Jeannie_C says:

    As to why Pope Francis chose to baptize this baby rather than allowing another priest to administer the Sacrament, I wonder whether it was to illustrate his position that the Sacraments aren’t to be viewed as prizes for the spiritually perfect, rather as remedies for the imperfect?

    And what can I, as an individual, and we, collectively, do to promote the Sacraments, to promote faithfulness to the Church and her teachings, to encourage young parents struggling with fussy babies and children to return week after week, as these tiny, noisy Christians are our future?

  103. PA mom says:

    I just read another account of this which quoted the mother as saying that they had decided to marry quickly and there had not been time to put together a formal church wedding.
    Hopefully, the issue of the waiting time will be addressed during the upcoming talks. Whereas the old rule of three weeks till marriage seems too short, the current setup of a year is absolutely too long. Most people I know decided to marry after having already been dating (and more) for quite some time and another year is just another year of sin. It just seems that there is a bit of unreasonableness on the part of these rules, and the goal should be making it more accessible to do it properly and to help couples make the leap to grace as quickly as is effectively possible.
    Can’t an agreement of four to six months be made to be more reasonable and maybe more people would simply chose to be married in the Church to begin with?

  104. poohbear says:

    I really don’t understand many of the comments here. It sounds like many people think there is nothing wrong with people who are living in sin (i.e. cohabitating or catholics who married outside of the church). How can we expect our children to follow the Catholic faith when they see the pope parade in front of everyone those who don’t follow church teaching. This is so bad for the Church and those who try to follow her teachings. It saddens me greatly.

  105. LadyMarchmain says:

    Pooh bear, I’m with you. I feel sad and almost didn’t come back.

    PA Mom: They requested the baptism in September. It’s now January. hmmmmmmm……

    Cathy: I was being ironical.

    Unwilling: Thank you for reminding me of Muriel Spark. Another good example is in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, where Helene and Pierre are married in the Orthodox Church. Helene decides she is tired of Pierre, stages a convincing conversion to Catholicism, gives lots of money to the Jesuits and requests the Petrine principle applied to rule her Orthodox marriage as invalid.

    Mama Bear: Yes, I feel exactly as you do.
    (The bears have it!)

    We aren’t entitled to the sacraments and we don’t have a right to receive them. Receiving unworthily damns our immortal souls to hell.

    Baptismal rites require the parents renounce Satan, which means mortal sin in their lives. It’s not a car wash.

  106. phlogiston says:

    I can’t help but wonder if HH would have been quite so “pastoral” if the couple had been married in an SSPX chapel. As I recall, there was no shortage of “Sturm und Drang” about such marriages around these parts not too long ago.

  107. LadyMarchmain:

    The reference to Tolstoy’s War and Peace is not in point. Tolstoy, a vicious anti-Catholic, intentionally misrepresents, the Petrine Privilege, the Jesuits, and the Catholic Church in this fictional incident. The couple are both baptized “Orthodox”: and so no Petrine Privilege is possible. It is only possible in a non-sacramental marriage (i.e. one spouse was not baptized). His own church regularly rebaptized and still rebaptizes Catholics to wipe would their marriages and ordinations. There is a word for this but I will not use it.

  108. dominic1955 says:

    I wish they’d just go to a more medieval sense of marriage and not have the legalistic distinction for (bad) Catholics. If folks (man and woman-natural law applies regardless) exchange vows that , they should be considered married, at least non-sacramentally.

    Its terribly hard to try to explain to non-practicing Catholics that you aren’t going to go to their wedding because they are getting married by a justice of the peace since they were baptized but hardly darkened the door of a church since but you can go to the wedding of a Catholic in a non-Catholic church if they get the bishop’s rubber stamp or two non-Catholics that can get married anywhere (indoor, outdoor, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, pagan, etc.).

    No one cares about these fine distinctions but people like us and since this isn’t a matter of Natural Law but rather a rather recent Canonical requirement, I think it should be changed-or at least made known that one can go to a wedding of a Catholic outside of the Church for support (not necessarily approval) in good faith.

  109. LadyMarchmain says:

    Fr. Augustine: Wow, I would not describe Tolstoy as a vicious anti-Catholic. (For one thing, he was a great admirer of de Maistre, who inspired much of his detail work in War and Peace.) To clarify, in the novel, the Jesuits refuse to grant this request of Helene’s, and Tolstoy knew, as do I, that no Petrine privilege is possible. I’m not certain I understand your final point? Tolstoy didn’t really have a church; he was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church. I only brought this example up because there was so much discussion about validity of marriages here.

    phlogiston: Exactly! Or if a couple had requested the baptism in Latin.

  110. mr205 says:

    @poohbear – How many on this forum have never fallen away, turned from the love of God to a life of sin? When I first stepped foot in a Catholic Parish, I was knee deep in years of sin. Today my life is turned around; the power of God. We don’t know how God will work in that couple’s life through the Baptism of their child. Turn them away, they might never come back. My future Mother-in-Law is in an irregular marriage. All her children were allowed to receive the sacraments. Today my fiancée practices. What would have happened if the Priest had said, “No, your children will not be allowed?”

    “The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

  111. Giuseppe says:

    To quote an old friend – if a foetus has a right to life, then a baby has a right to a Christian baptism.
    God’s grace in the sacrament can overpower inept parents and a corrupt society. As Baptism is the one sacrament which does not require a Roman Catholic priest for validity, any Christian who can baptize a child in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in dire situations. Correct? (Granted, a baptism in a Roman Catholic church by a priest does wonders toward setting the child on the best possible path to salvation.)

  112. Phil_NL says:

    Venerator Sti Lot

    Indeed, “intends to contract a true marriage” would be a crucial element. I would say that insolubility would indeed have to be firmly intended (and perhaps other things too), and not just the absence of the intent to dissolve. The reason for this is that the second line would be hugely problematic, as it would make the existence of a marriage dependent on what the partners consider acceptable grounds for divorce, and whether they expect such grounds to occur over the subsequent decades. Those are probably even murkier waters than trying to figure out if a marriage should be annuled due to lack of consent.

    So therefore, I would not see any civil marriage as a true marriage, unless it could be proven otherwise – which will be quite rare. That one is baptised makes one a Christian, it doesn’t make one have the proper understanding about marriage. Sacramental effect would not be assumed.

    Such a position would lead to the conclusion that virtually none who isn’t married in the Church has a ‘true marriage’ as those documents envisage it. Given the enormous diversity in the 21st century on what is called, and meant by, marriage, that is probably by far the safer route, and not a downside at all.
    It gives the church proper control on the definition of marriage, which it needs to safeguard the sacrament. It would mean that a substantial amount of converts would get a ‘free pass’ on a divorce of marriages contracted before conversion, but that doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, as virtually no-one outside the Catholic Church still places the same demands on marriage as we do. Unlike the times of Trent or even to a large extent 1910.

  113. Phil_NL says:

    On the other hand, I would assume that any marriage in the Church would have sacramental effect and be a true marriage, unless proven otherwise. Not because I think every Catholic has a proper understanding of marriage, but because they are obliged to have one, and by celebrating the wedding in a Catholic Church, they do express intent to have the sacrament, even if they don’t fully understand it (as opposed to having an unintended sacrament by marrying elsewhere, which I believe to be impossible). Caveat emptor, also when you walk into the priest’s office saying you want to be married.

    Now if only one of the partners would be Catholic at the time of marriage, that would still be muddy waters. But those remain anyway – in fact, clearing them up may not even be the highest goal.

  114. mrshopey says:

    Ladymarchmain,
    You said:
    “We aren’t entitled to the sacraments and we don’t have a right to receive them. ”

    As laity, we do have some rights in the Church and they are outlined in Canon Law esp Can 213: Christ’s faithful have the right to be assisted by their Pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church, especially by the word of God and the sacraments.
    And the wording in the Canon regarding Baptizing of child(ren) makes it clear we are to do it ASAP:

    Can. 867 §1 Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptised within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepared for it.

  115. Andrew says:

    The Council of Trent speaks of marriage as a “true and properly said” sacrament (vere ac proprie unum ex … sacramentis) because marriage can be called a “sacrament” either in a wider sense whereby even marriages among non believers can be called (and have been called by Popes) a sacrament; but marriage can also be called a “sacrament” in a stricter, narrower sense (true and properly said) whereby it is understood to be a practical sign of efficient grace conferred “ex opere operato”.
    Moving from “sign” to “reality” we can distinguish the matrimonial contract as a sacrament, the matrimonial bond as both a reality and a sacrament and the sanctifying grace as the reality. For Christians there can be no matrimonial contract that is not at the same time a sacrament.

  116. Sonshine135 says:

    I am amazed at some of the negative responses that I have seen on this topic. I can only relate my story.

    I am the child of a lapsed Episcopalian Father and a lapsed Catholic Mother. My Father, somehow, was able to get me baptized as an infant in the Episcopal Church. To my knowledge, we never went back to that church. I can count on one hand the number of times I ever walked through a church vestibule as a kid- Catholic, Episcopal, or otherwise. When I was 17 years old, I began dating my best friend’s sister. My best friend was a Catholic. I started going to church with them regularly and received First Communion and Confirmation when I was 18. I went through a bad patch even after my conversion and led a sinful life, but the Spirit led me back where I needed to be, and my family follows the faith. I have been a regular, practicing Catholic for a very long time now. Thank God for His mercy and His forgiveness of a wretch like me.

    Needless to say, I am appreciative of what the Pope has done here with offering baptism to this child. He is an image of Christ. To condemn him for doing this seems very Pharisaical to me. Please have some faith in God, and harden not your hearts.

  117. Supertradmum says:

    robtbrown, you know from your own studies that Canon Law does not affect Protestants but only Catholics, fallen away or not.

    Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. An apostate is under different “rules” than Protestants or converts.

    And, as I am one of very few bloggers who has actually addressed the real and desperate need to form children in the virtues and to train them to think like Catholics, it is clear to me that one reason for the huge drop-out of Catholics in the States is that their parents did not do this.

  118. MarkG says:

    A while back I met a young couple at a TLM. The were new to the TLM. The husband said he was Catholic but never went to Mass as a kid. The wife said she grew up going on Christmas and Easter and when visiting grandma. Today they attend the TLM every Sunday.
    The point being that if they pastor at their Church had decided not to Baptize them as infants, even though their families weren’t practicing, they might not have identified themselves as Catholics and eventually found their way to the TLM.

  119. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Phil_NL (at 1:25 and 1:31 am),

    Thank you for the latest follow-up. I wonder how canonists and sacramental theologians have been discussing such things during the course of the last half-century or so…

    And, for that matter, how Latin, Western ones have considered Greek (etc.), Eastern practice over the millennium-and-a-half or so since (as I have read) Church-practices there began to reflect secular Imperial legal changes.

    If it be cautiously assumed that baptized eligible 21st-century men and women may not be ‘intending to contract a true marriage’, it is not clear to me how one could do other than try to discover actual intentions on a ‘case by case’ basis. (That is, any step from “may not” to “probably are not” would seem insufficiently cautious.)

  120. LadyMarchmain says:

    Mrs. Hopey: Thank you so much for providing this from Canon Law:

    Can. 867 §1 Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptised within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepared for it.

    Now, with respect, would it not be reasonable to say that “to be themselves duly prepared” for the baptism implies that the parents would want to be married in the Catholic Church? I still maintain that 4 months is plenty of time to get married, especially if you know that you’re going to be presenting your baby for baptism by the Pope on an international media hookup and will be promising to renounce Satan and raise your child Catholic and in a Catholic home. I’m sure they took lots of trouble with their clothes, haircuts and so forth.

  121. Phil_NL says:

    LadyMarchmain,

    All of that pre-supposes that the parents can be married in the Church, should be married in the church (they might not be ready or not wanting gor a true lifelong commitment), and will be married by the church (seems like in the US at least a year’s worth of “classes” are demanded). It’s far easier to conceive a baby than to marry in the Church, probably for good reason. I’m not convinced that every couple who conceive, should automaticslly marry in the Church.

    And whether or not they can/should/will be married, the child is there – might as well baptize it.

  122. Phil_NL says:

    Venerator Sti Lot,

    I’m no so sure if the ‘breaking-point’ would be the last 50 years in this case. Perhaps it would because marying outside he Church has become much moe common around that time, but that could also be coincidental.
    I think (but do not know, I’m no expert on the field) the difference may very well be whether the country the canonist/theologian hails from has had Napoleonic law or not. If a country has (had) that influence, there is likely to be an early difference between civil and religious marriages, and what it means to be married, with all the issues that come from that.
    It sure causes a difference in outlook right now, as his blog has ample evidence of people from – persumably – common law countries that appear to make no disctinction between types of marriage.

    As for our Eastern brethren, that would be interesting indeed, especially because in Byzantine times, the rules on matrimony in the East were actually stricter (one of the early byzantine emperors had a huge conflict with the church due to the fact that he was marrying for the third, and later for the fourth time. Not after a divorce, but after his previous wives were deceased. Even remarriage after death of a spouse was considered sinful), while nowadays, the Orthodox seem to be much more lenient than the Catholic practice. A huge shift must have occured among them, albeit in the span of more than a millenium.

    Finally, there’s anoher way out of the case-by-case mess, assuming we want to get out of that mess: simply legislate that intent has to be expressed by entering into a sacramental marriage in church if either party is Catholic. It would mean a lot more mariages are going to be assumed to be ‘not true mariages’, but I don’t see that as a negative per se. It is sacramental marriage we need to defend, not whatever construction others (state, protestants, muslims…) slap the name ‘marriage’ on. Then we best make crystal clear what ae battlelines are.

  123. Pingback: PopeWatch: Baptize Thos Babies | The American Catholic

  124. robtbrown says:

    Sorry for the delay.

    Supertradmum says:

    robtbrown, you know from your own studies that Canon Law does not affect Protestants but only Catholics, fallen away or not.

    Canon Law recognizes reality. It does not make it.

    Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. An apostate is under different “rules” than Protestants or converts.

    I’ll return to the question. Someone is Baptised Catholic, but there it ends. Perhaps the parents die, and the baby is then raised by Non believers. Years later, then is married to a Protestant in a civil ceremony.

    Valid or not?

  125. robtbrown says:

    Paul M,
    I’m sorry for the delay and if I sounded offensively personal. I realize what you are saying is consistent with what the Church has practiced.

    Let us take five cases.

    1. Wedding of two Catholics with canonical form
    2. Wedding of two Protestants, obviously without canonical form.
    3. Wedding of two UnBaptised
    4. Wedding of one Catholic and one unBaptised with canonical form.
    5. Wedding of two Catholics without canonical form.

    Let us say that the vows in all 5 cases all the same (which 50 years ago was probable). And that there is nothing supernatural indicated in those vows (marriage is a natural institution) and that Augustine’s threefold bona coniugale proles, fides, and sacramentum are in the intention of all (sacramentum indicates permanence in this life, which Christ Himself said is natural)

    We agree that #1 is valid Sacramentally and Naturally.

    The Church has habitually affirmed #2 to be also valid Sacramentally and Naturally.

    Case #3 is valid Naturally but obviously not Sacramentally.

    Case #4 is considered valid Naturally but not Sacramentally.

    So what do we make of #5? There is no difference in vows or intention (all of which are ordered to natural goods). How can we say that #5 is not a natural marriage, and #4 is when the only difference is canonical form? Or for that matter, why is #2 Sacramental but #5 not even natural?

  126. The Masked Chicken says:

    I hate to ask an elementary question, but exactly what constitutes a sacrament? Matter and form is obvious, but is there any sense that the person must intend to do what the Church intends to be done? If a priest says the words of consecration, but does not intend to do what the Church intends by the words, has a consecration occurred? The traditional answers, I thought, was, no. Likewise, a confession before an ordained priest who does not have faculties is also, invalid. My question is: is a sacrament valid only by form and matter without reference to the form having some reference to the Church? If the form has some reference to the Church, then it would seem that the Church has some power, under binding and loosing, to add to (but not subtract from) the formal aspects of what is needed for the validity of a sacrament.

    If that were the case, then case five would be natural, but not sacramental, since part of the form, as extended by the Church, has not been met. I could be wrong and I would be happy to learn about this.

    As for case 2, it is no longer the case that the Church can, in all cases, assume that sacramentality has occurred, because of the loss of the understanding of permanence.

    The Chicken

  127. LadyMarchmain says:

    Rbtbrown asks: “How can we say that #5 is not a natural marriage, and #4 is when the only difference is canonical form? Or for that matter, why is #2 Sacramental but #5 not even natural?”

    Because, sadly, the only difference is not canonical form; there is also a rejection of proper obedience and/or faith.

    The Protestant couple in #2 would be following the guidance of the church they belong to. The same would be true for say, a Jewish couple in #3.

    A Catholic couple knows they are to marry in the Church. They know they are to marry for life. They know they are not to cohabitate before marriage or contracept after. They know they are to marry within the faith. They know not to marry someone who is already married (even if divorced).

    If I were to cast this question differently, it could be something like: how come bacon is fine on Fridays for everyone else but Catholics have to eat a fish fry?

  128. LadyMarchmain says:

    Phil_NL:

    If the types of reasons you’re describing are true, then this couple is in serious trouble. And I question whether anyone in the kind of situation you describe is capable of providing a Catholic upbringing to their baby. If they are indeed so lacking in maturity, ability to commit or take anything seriously as you describe, I fear their child should probably not be baptized. If it’s as you say, they need help urgently to get their lives in order.

  129. Imrahil says:

    Dear @robtbrown,

    thank you for pointedly describing the problem.

    I think the only answer that allows certainty of deduction, and I fear also the only answer even w.r.t. aptitude, fittingness and the like is:

    “because I said so, that’s why” (said by the Church).

    - If I do try to find a somewhat more satisfying explanation, let us consider this. Marriage is a natural institution (elevated to a sacrament). As such, “supernatural error”, while possibly sinful in its own area, should not and does not hinder it from being contracted. This is why two Protestants, unbaptized agnostics, heathens, or what not, should be able to marry. And then, by a sacramental automatism, any marriage among two baptized takes sacramental form in the first place.

    Coming to think of it, Protestants must per se observe canonical form (in a sense I am going to explain) for validity – it is a sacrament for them too after all (though they deny it). Only the Church wisely has not decided to apply the usual canons to them. [It is a disputed, if unimportant, point btw. whether two marrying Protestants are bound to the form demanded by their church, or - like according to a most general opinion the unbaptized - the form demanded by the State, or even none of the kind.]

    On the other hand, the two Catholics in your case (5) have received the commandment of canonical form, and received it as necessary for validity, and chosen to act against it.

    That’s some difference, isn’t it.

    (Sure, knowledge has been a bit down of late, but “ignorantia legis non excusat” is an established principle – in law, not in morality, that is.)

  130. LadyMarchmain says:

    Thank you, Imrahil; that is really clear! And very smart.

    I apologize for not responding to your earlier post to me. I wasn’t certain what to say, as of course, the graces afforded by your baptism are a blessing to all of us who benefit from your wisdom and spiritual counsel. Your parents are blessed to have you as their son.

  131. Paul M. says:

    robtbrown,

    Thanks for your further response. I didn’t find the initial response offensively personal. I was merely concerned about the disconnect in our respective responses.

    You asked, “How can we say that #5 is not a natural marriage, and #4 is when the only difference is canonical form?” The short answer is that a natural marriage between two Christians is a necessary and sufficient condition for a sacramental marriage between those same Christians. Thus, because #5 deals with two Christians and we agree that a sacramental marriage was not formed, then a natural marriage was also not formed.

    I suspect that you’re more interested in the long answer, which deals with the Church’s authority to impose formal requirements on the formation of natural marriages; here is my fallible attempt at providing it.

    Natural marriages are formed by the exchange of promises between bride and groom. These promises are what we call marital consent. Marital consent is thus a species of other kinds of promises, such as contract and bequest and, like other species in the genus of promises, is regulable by law. For instance, the law can forbid certain promises from being validly made or certain persons from making them. At common law, a promise to commit a crime cannot be validly made. If someone attempts to do so, the person is guilty of conspiracy, and the person’s “promise” means nothing. At canon law, a priest cannot validly promise to take now a woman as his wife. If, God forbid, a priest were to do so (and there have been recent examples, unfortunately), besides becoming irregular for the exercise of orders the priest does not get a natural marriage as a consolation prize should the woman unwisely return his promise. He gets no marriage at all and is living in sacrilegious concubinage. The Council of Trent specifically covers this case in session 24, decree on marriage, canon 9: “if any one saith, that clerics constituted in sacred orders, or Regulars, who have solemnly professed chastity, are able to contract marriage, and that being contracted it is valid, notwithstanding the ecclesiastical law, or vow; . . . let him be anathema.”

    Thus, the law has significant effect upon promises as it can prevent some promises from being made by all people and can forbid certain people from making promises. If it can stop some people from making promises altogether, it can require those people to fulfill formal requirements before making promises. There are many examples in which formalities are imposed for validity’s sake. For instance, in the case of a will (depending on the jurisdiction), for validity’s sake it must be signed by the testator in the presence of a number of subscribing witnesses (usually 2). The failure for the testator to follow this formal requirement means that the testator does not bequeath; his “will” is just an expensive piece of paper and nothing more. This is so even though the testator has otherwise the natural right to dispose of his property in a just manner and even though the testator has the full intention for his property to be disposed in accordance with his promise signified on his expensive piece of paper.

    These formal requirements are not imposed arbitrarily. In the case of a will, the requirement of subscribing witnesses ensures that the testator really did make the promises that are set forth in the will. It also, secondarily, informs the testator of the importance of the sorts of promises he is making by quasi-ritualizing the occasion. The Church has similar reasons for requiring the assistance of a cleric and the presence of two witnesses when a bride and groom (or their proxies) exchange marital consent. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1631.)

    Thus, marital consent is a kind of promise. Given the Church’s capacity and authority to make positive human law for its members, it has the authority to regulate the valid formation of these sorts of promises (among others) by requiring the fulfillment of particular formalities. Without fulfilling those formalities, those subject to the law have not validly made the requisite promises and, thus, have not formed a natural marriage.

    Sorry for the long response. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

  132. Paul M. says:

    Masked Chicken, I believe that #5 is not a natural marriage. A sacramental marriage exists between two Christians if and only if a natural marriage exists between the same Christians. This is because sacramental marriage is a special type of natural marriage that occurs every time a Christian marries another Christian. Thus, because no sacramental marriage occurs with #5, no natural marriage occurs either.

  133. Phil_NL says:

    Those 5 categories are a good structure. I would say though that with the current attitudes prevalent in society, neither 2, 3 or 4 could even be a natural marriage, properly understood (the ” true marriage” as referenced by Trent and the 1910 encyclopedia), as no permanence is expected (“till death do us part” is nowadays an abbreviation for “till death do us part, or the divorce license, whichever comes first”) Case 5 would depend on the intent, as Catholics by law would be assumed to know whst marriage means. However, the failure to observe canonical form probably indicates an intention not to contract a true marriage.

    I maintain my earlier point: intent should be needed for both a sacrament and for a true natural marriage, and most, if not nearly all, marriages outside the canonical form prescribed for Catholics, would nowadays miss that aspect.

    LadyMarchain:
    some of the hurdles I mentioned are of the church’s making, and make little sense (eg a year’s preparation with no substance nor effect, most likely). I would not say the parents are by definition making a mess of their lives, at least more so than the average. Besides, I know nothing about the circumstances except for what’s posted here. Whst I do know is that the only requirement for immediate baptism is some hope for a Catholic upbringing, and as pointed out before, thst is a very low standard, quite likely to be met.

  134. mrshopey says:

    LadyMarchmain:
    Regarding getting a child baptized ASAP, I can speak from experience that I was confused when we asked and the baptism delayed, almost 2 months.
    There was no other reason for our delay other than scheduling. I dunno. I was surprised as we did not need to have it during the Mass – was open to a Saturday Baptism, etc. That was what the priest told us to do.

    I will admit that I baptized our second son (6 days old) when we were living overseas. I regret not telling the priest when we returned to the states but I found out later he would have been conditionally baptized anyway in addition to the anointing. He was right at a year old when we were able to travel back home which is what we were told to do (wait). Since we were on high alert (orange/red everyday), I didn’t want to take any chances. Plus, attacks on Americans had just happened in the country we were in, so I did it.

  135. The Masked Chicken says:

    Paul M.,

    You wrote:

    “The short answer is that a natural marriage between two Christians is a necessary and sufficient condition for a sacramental marriage between those same Christians. Thus, because #5 deals with two Christians and we agree that a sacramental marriage was not formed, then a natural marriage was also not formed.”

    Just as a point of logic, this is only the case if the logical implication is biconditional (a =>b and b=> a, often written ab) and, often requires a and b be necessary and sufficient for each other. However, it is not the case that a natural marriage is a sufficient condition for a sacramental marriage, as other ancillary conditions, such as Canonical Form, might have to be met for sacramentality. It is, however, surely a necessary condition. Thus, barring biconditionality, one cannot assert:
    Let A = Natural Marriage, B = Sacramental Marriage

    B => A
    ~B => ~A

    as you do. This is the fallacy of the converse accident.

    Correctly, one can write:

    B => A
    ~A => ~B

    Which is the usual law of modus tollens.

    That being said, your analysis of the conditions necessary for promises seems spot-on.

    The Chicken

  136. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read:

    (a =>b and b=> a, often written ab)

    The Chicken

  137. Paul M. says:

    Masked Chicken said “Just as a point of logic, this is only the case if the logical implication is biconditional”

    Agreed.

    Masked Chicken said “However, it is not the case that a natural marriage is a sufficient condition for a sacramental marriage, as other ancillary conditions, such as Canonical Form, might have to be met for sacramentality.”

    With respect, I disagree. Canonical form is a requirement for validity, not sacramentality. Sacramentality adheres due to the status of the parties (that they are Christian), not due to a change in the nature of the promises that they exchange (that they take each other as spouses).

    Being a Christian and forming a natural marriage with another Christian (exchanging lawful promises to marry, not being subject to any impediments, and truly intending those promises) is sufficient for the formation of a sacramental marriage. The converse is also true: forming a sacramental marriage implies that the parties were Christians and that they formed a natural marriage.

  138. robtbrown says:

    Paul M says,

    You asked, “How can we say that #5 is not a natural marriage, and #4 is when the only difference is canonical form?” The short answer is that a natural marriage between two Christians is a necessary and sufficient condition for a sacramental marriage between those same Christians. Thus, because #5 deals with two Christians and we agree that a sacramental marriage was not formed, then a natural marriage was also not formed.

    1. Natural marriage is a condition for Sacramental Marriage, but the converse is not true, i.e., Sacramental marriage is a condition for Natural Marriage. Otherwise, there could not be purely natural marriages.

    2. Further, it makes no sense to say that civil marriages between Protestants are Sacramental, but civil marriages between Catholics are not only not Sacramental (agree) but also not even Natural (disagree). This practice of the Church began, I would guess, with the Reformation.

    2. Re marital consent: I already pointed out that the vows and the goods of marriage acc to St Augustine don’t vary whether it’s Sacramental or merely Natural. Once again: Marriage is a natural institution.

    3. I have no doubt that the Church has the authority to regulate marriage. The Church also has the authority to regulate Communion, and so people are prohibited from receiving Communion more than once a day. But that doesn’t make the second Communion invalid.

    4. If I might expand a bit on consent. In every human act there is intention of the end and willing the object. Taking a cue from Cormac Burke, I think the Consortium totius vitae belongs to intention, and goods of marriage (proles, fides, sacramentum) to the the object willed. In any case, all are purely natural.

    5. NB: I am not arguing that Matrimony is not a Sacrament, but rather than unlike the other six Sacraments, it is based on a natural institution.

    BTW, I made a Latin error above when I wrote bona coniugale. . Neuter plural noun with neuter singular adjective doesn’t fly. IMHO, should be bona coniugalia

  139. Paul M. says:

    Masked Chicken, let me try that one again, with emphases as insertions and strikeouts as deletions.

    Canonical form is a requirement for validity, not sacramentality. Sacramentality adheres due to the status of the parties (that they are Christian), not due to a change in the nature or form of the promises that they exchange (that they take each other as spouses before a priest and two witnesses).

    Being a Christian and forming a natural marriage with another Christian (exchanging lawful valid promises to marry, not being subject to any impediments, and truly intending those promises) is sufficient for the formation of a sacramental marriage. The converse is also true: forming a sacramental marriage implies that the parties were Christians and that they formed a natural marriage. In the case of Catholics, the valid exchange of promises to marry implies the presence of canonical form.

  140. robtbrown says:

    Paul M,

    With respect, I disagree. Canonical form is a requirement for validity, not sacramentality. Sacramentality adheres due to the status of the parties (that they are Christian), not due to a change in the nature of the promises that they exchange (that they take each other as spouses).

    And of course, that is the skunk at the picnic. The policy is that Canonical form is necessary for Catholics but not Protestants.

    And so we have two cases:

    1. Two Protestants marry, then divorce. One of the parties then wants to marry a Catholic.

    2. Two Catholics marry civilly, then divorce. One of the parties then wants to marry a Catholic.

    Does the Tribunal treat both the same?

  141. Paul M. says:

    robtbrown: No dispute that the sacrament of marriage is based upon a natural institution. I think that our main difference of opinion is as follows. I hold that the Church’s requirement of canonical form is a requirement for its members to make natural marriages. You hold that canonical form is a requirement for sacramentality only and that, absent it, natural marriages result. Is this an accurate summary?

    Regarding the biconditional, it holds if you agree with the premises. A sacramental marriage implies that the parties are Christians and that a natural marriage was formed. The parties being Christian and forming a natural marriage implies that it is a sacrament. The reason that you and the Masked Chicken think that the biconditional does not hold is that you believe that canonical form is a condition for sacramentality only, when I hold, like impdiments, canonical form is a condition for natural marriage between those who are bound by it, full stop, and that sacramental results from the status of the promising parties (that they are Christians), not the change in the nature or form of the promises.

    Otherwise, if a natural marriage were formed between Catholics absent the canonical form to which they were bound, then a natural marriage would be formed between a priest and, God forbid, his concubine, which goes against Trent.

  142. Imrahil says:

    Dear @robtbrown,

    - while interjecting beforehand that we happen to be allowed a second Communion per day, now, provided it is within Mass (but not a third),

    the answer to your problem no. 2 seems given by can. 1055 which, despite being a canon, seems to make a theological statement:

    Can. 1055. § 1. The marriage bond, by which man and wife constitute among themselves the community of the whole life, directed by its natural qualities to the good of the spouses and the procreation and raising of progeny, has been – between baptized people – elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.
    § 2. Therefore there cannot be a valid marriage contract between baptized people without its being a sacrament at the same time.

  143. Paul M. says:

    robtbrown: Ha. We cross-posted. Consider my amended response to the Chicken:

    “Sacramentality adheres due to the status of the parties (that they are Christian), not due to a change in the nature or form of the promises that they exchange (that they take each other as spouses before a priest and two witnesses).”

    The tribunal does not treat both the same. In the first case, the parties validly exchanged promises to marry. In the second case, the parties did not validly exchange promises to marry due to a formal defect, as they were bound to observe special formal requirements that the parties in the first case did not.

    If the Church can regulate valid consent for natural marriage by Christians in general and Catholics in particular (which is what I hold it is capable of), then this is not a problem. It seems that you hold the contrary.

  144. Phil_NL says:

    Robtbrown,

    Your 4th point deals with intent. Haven’t we reached a point where intent can change dramatically even with the same actions – i.e. not every couple presenting themselves to the justice of the peace or the townhall will have the same understanding of which obligations they are about to enter into. At which point will we have to conclude that the natural institution itself has fallen in abeyance? I would hold that if insullubility has to be intended for a natural marriage, we have very few of those being conducted.

  145. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Canonical form is a requirement for validity, not sacramentality.”

    That was not your original conclusion. You wrote:

    “Being a Christian and forming a natural marriage with another Christian (exchanging lawful promises to marry, not being subject to any impediments, and truly intending those promises) is sufficient for the formation of a sacramental marriage. The converse is also true: forming a sacramental marriage implies that the parties were Christians and that they formed a natural marriage.”

    Which means, Natural Sacramental, which is, simply, not the case or else all natural marriages by anyone would be sacramental. Sacraments are only dispensed through the power of the Catholic Church (baptized Protestants’s marriage, when sacramental are through their remote affiliation with the Church through baptism), but natural marriages are not.

    You proposition: “Sacramentality adheres due to the status of the parties (that they are Christian), not due to a change in the nature or form of the promises that they exchange (that they take each other as spouses before a priest and two witnesses).”

    is exactly the debatable issue, in my opinion. Does not the change in status depend, also on the form? A priest without faculties has no formal right to absolve, so their confessions are not sacramental. In this case, the Church has attached an ancillary condition to the form beyond ego te absolvo. Does the church also have the right with the sacrament of marriage? In order for the status of the party to change in confession from sinful to forgiven, faculties – and addition to the form of absolution, must be met. This would seem to be the case with marriage, also. The question is: does or does not the Church have the right to attach ancillary conditions to the ordinary form and matter for the realization of a sacrament. I think it does in the matter of form.

    The Chicken

  146. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read:

    Which means, Natural Sacramental, which is, simply, not the case or else all natural marriages by anyone would be sacramental. Sacraments are only dispensed through the power of the Catholic Church (baptized Protestants’s marriage, when sacramental are through their remote affiliation with the Church through baptism), but natural marriages are not.

    iPad or WordPress seems to not like some logic forms.

  147. The Masked Chicken says:

    Natural (biconditionality implies) Sacramental

    Sorry, can’t do logic on WordPress.

  148. Paul M. says:

    Masked Chicken said: “Which means, Natural (biconditionally implies) Sacramental”

    You’re missing the parties. Natural, by itself, does not biconditionally imply Sacramental. Natural & Christian biconditionally implies Sacramental. I have always maintained that the status of the parties are essential.

  149. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Natural & Christian biconditionally implies Sacramental.”

    I have no problem with that. My problem is in the definition of Christian. Is one who refuses to follow the requirements of the Church truly Christian in the sense needed for sacramentality?

    The Chicken

  150. LadyMarchmain says:

    Phil_NL: Of course I can imagine a situation in which the couple through no fault of their own would not yet have been able to manage a Church wedding, for example, refugees fleeing a wartorn country who needed to obtain visas as husband and wife quickly.

    And I understand that the pre-Cana requirements take time, but this couple has had sufficient, given ten months to the birth of the baby and four months from the time they requested the baptism to the event. Had the news articles said something like, “The couple’s Church wedding will take place next month” or even next year, I would feel differently.

    Mrs hopey, of course you did right to baptize your baby as the situation was precarious.

    No one wants to keep babies from being baptized!

  151. Imrahil says:

    Dear @LadyMarchmain,

    thank you btw very much for your kind words!

    As to pre-Cana requirements (the word is unknown here), it should somewhat be remembered that this is a fine line to walk on. Although some don’t like the concept, there is such thing as a right to the sacraments. St. Edith Stein called on her responsbile parish priest and said “baptize me”. When he proceeded to say words about instruction, she replied “examine me, right now”.

    Catholic couples having had their basic catechism training, willing to marry, to sign that they have understood what this means, etc., and approaching a priest within reasonable time to be available for the kind of ceremony they wish and he agrees to… – those should not be barred from the sacrament. They may in a truly voluntary way agree to a more detailed marriage formation. (And by “truly voluntary” I do not mean “if you don’t like what the Church offers, just go to City Hall”.) There would have been in more ancient times such nasty words as “enticing to fornication”* for not marrying infatuated couples for a long time. [*in the same sense as leaving the locker unlocked is called "enticing to comrade larceny" in the military.]

  152. LadyMarchmain says:

    Imrahil, with respect, St. Edith Stein was a genius, held a doctorate, was incredibly knowledgeable about the Western philosophical tradition (writing her dissertation on Heidegger) which mean she was already exceptionally conversant with Western theology. I’m sure she was a quick study to her baptism. And, she did not say, “Don’t bother with the examination. Test me to see if I’m ready.”
    So she submitted to due process, she just needn’t require the same kind of instruction a less gifted intellect might need.

    In the New Testament, we read about a case where St. Philip baptized someone after a short instruction because the Holy Ghost had revealed so much to him and prepared his understanding, so that just one session of instruction was necessary.

    I agree with you about not “enticing to fornication”. It concerns me deeply that at least 50% of the couples receiving instruction (by last count) in the USA are already cohabiting.

    Here is something to ponder. A man, married 23 years, father of 10 children, is annulled, and despite his appeal to Rome, the annulment is granted. This marriage was considered invalid because the couple had been married in an SSPX church.

  153. LadyMarchmain says:

    Correction, She did not say, “Don’t bother with the examination.” She said, “Test me to see if I’m ready.”

  154. Sseprn says:

    It is my understanding that faithful Christians marrying civilly (following the legal, non religious customs of their society) in the first few hundred years of Christianity , were considered by the Church to be validly married. Hence they were able to participate in the fullness of Church life, including Communion. They certainly were practicing Catholic Christians as Catholicism was , and is, the one, true faith, then and now. No other Christianity was available to them. These people were closest to Christ and the earliest disciples chronologically.
    Please explain to me why, if what I describe above is an accurate synopsis of early Christian (Catholic) marriage history and tradition, the Church needed to ever change the practice for anything other than a political reason.
    I sometimes feel that the evolution of bureaucracy after Constantine, and especially in the Middle Ages, has distanced the practice of our wonderful faith from the most important telling of our Lord’s death and resurrection, as described in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

  155. Imrahil says:

    Dear @LadyMarchmain,

    yes I understood that… And I’m nowise saying that due instruction should be withheld.

    What I am saying is that there are these, I think four, questions in the marriage ritual, which are – other even than some part what adult catechumens learn in catechumenate and baptized children in religious class – fairly easy to understand. Do you take N. N. for your wife after ripe thinking-through and in a free decision? Do you promise in good and in bad days until death doth you part? Do you accept the children God that God shall bless you with and promise to educate them as Christians? Do you accept responsibility of Christian married couples in the world? Then say now the wedding word. “N., before the Face of God”, etc. etc.

    Nothing of this requires a doctorate to understand. It may perhaps require an afternoon of explanation, coffee and cake possibly included. Honesty presumed, that is all there is.

    If hearing a word like “pre-Cana”, I can think of a couple of motives for such a policy,
    1. making sure that they know what a marriage is – which is what I described up to here, and which I don’t object,
    2. giving additional spiritual background of any sort excuse the vague expression, I don’t precisely know what that is in detail but do assume there are valuable things to do – which I think only those freely willing should be subjected to,
    3. weed out those who want to obtain surreptitiously the wedding ceremony without actually intending to marry,
    4. use the power of force to withhold marriage to a last chance of religious education in general, possibly with a focus on inner-marriage 6th commandment issues (note: contraception is well-known to be a sin; it is, however, only invalidating marriage if it is intended to be permanent).

    Especially no. 3 is openly admitted and vividly argued for; I object to it, first because it is punishing the not guilty, second because I don’t know how can it be effective except in one way by which it should not be effective (viz., making them weary of all the meetings they have to attend, which first should not be in the first place, second may just as well not appear to a determined fraud and may as well drive away a perhaps not thoroughly practicing Catholic who does intend a good Catholic marriage).

    Sometimes we just have to take a man’s or woman’s word, which should preferably be put somewhere in writing, for what it professes to be, and there will be no way around that anyway.

    (It becomes even more difficult in another area: Most marriages are annulled for psychological reasons. Now some might come to the idea of finding out whether there are any. I say – no. Marriage is a sacrament not for a specially elected group like Ordination is, but for the multitude, providing they find spouses. There must not be compulsory psychologic examination of any kind.)

    As to St. Edith … sure, she was quite educated. Only, alas, I can very well imagine well-meaning laypeople to say: “Sure she’s got a doctorate in philosophy, but what insert-expletive does that make her think that she is something better? Let her begin with the very first catechumenate lesson of the very first day, like the rest does.”

    That said, which count about the cohabiting did you refer to? If I take “at least 50%” as “slightly over 50%”, you must be living in an island of the blessed.

  156. LadyMarchmain says:

    Ssepern, I believe that “non-religious” or “secular” marriage did not exist in the ancient world. A marriage performed by the Roman state would have included the Roman state religion (of which caesar was considered a deity); the same would have been true for the early church in Greece. The alternatives would have been pagan marriages, which would have involved rites dedicated to the pagan gods. The idea of a non-religious past in human history is an invention of the post modern world. The idea of the Church needing to change because she had taken on board some “medieval” accretions after an earlier, purer history, sounds vaguely protestant to me.

    And how many of our early saints were martyred or tortured because they would not submit to pagan or Roman religious marriage ceremonies!

    If two faithful Catholics wish to be married why on earth or in heaven would they not marry in the Church? If circumstances prevented them, why would they not take urgent steps to regularize their union and make it sacramental?

  157. LadyMarchmain says:

    Ssepern, I’ve consulted a very detailed Catholic Encyclopedia. According to that source, in the ancient world, Catholics were required to marry only other Catholics and in faciae ecclesiae, that is, in the Church. Tertullian was cited on this.

    Also from the same source, civil marriage as an institution was dated to the French Revolution and the Protestant Reformation.

    I stand to be corrected if I am in error.

  158. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Ssepern,

    because the Council of Trent said so, that’s why.

    Dear @LadyMarchmain, Roman marriage law is an interesting thing which is here only a side-issue… Yet so strictly it cannot be said that they were all religious. Sure, they contained the one or the other invocation to the idols; but what did not, and what, in a good Christian context, does not contain the one or the other invocation of the true God.
    Yet the, if such terminology be apt to be used in heathenry, “sacramental” Roman marriage (confarreation) was – interestingly – quite out of use at the time. And that was better, for they needed the two highest-ranking members of the priesthood for validity (talk about canonical requirements).
    More in favor was, for a time, what we would call “civil marriage”, which preserved the then-marriage tradition of the bride coming unter the fatherly power (in this context called the “hand” or manus) of the groom’s family head rather than remaining under her own family head.
    But by the beginning of the Empire, this – which to the Romans was marriage – also seems to have become rare in favor of what, judging from then’s standards, we might perhaps call a (heterosexual) civil-union (sine manu).

    The Christians gave marriage with the marriage vows, which was of course recognized as a sine manu marriage, or perhaps sometimes a manus marriage, by the state. (There was not the “City Hall” of Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic times, then.)

    End of the “aside”.

    By I think they went to the priest or even bishop from very early times.

    And at Trent the Church judged that all this should under pain of invalidity function in an orderly manner, for easier to deal with things.

  159. Sseprn says:

    Dear Lady,
    I would never assume you to be in error. Rather, you seem gracious to share obviously hard earned and thoughtfully considered knowledge.
    I have perhaps been taken with the almost simple elegance of the faith and commitment of the earliest believers described by Fr. Michael Giesler in his article: How the First Christians Changed the World (and What We Can Learn from Them). The article cn be found here: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/how-the-first-christians-changed-the-world. Father writes:
    “Christians were married in Roman civil ceremonies but believed that they were receiving a sacrament that bound them to each other in fidelity for all of their lives. In the words of Tertullian, Christian married couples are people “who sustain one another in the way of the Lord, who pray together, who go together to God’s table, and who face all their ordeals together” (qtd. in Henri Daniel-Rops, The Church of the Apostles and Martyrs, 233).”

    Please share your thoughts after you have had a chance to review Father’s comments.

  160. LadyMarchmain says:

    Sseprn, thank you for the link! What a beautiful article by Father Michael Giesler. Other sources I have read on Church history indicate that, while there may not have been a formal nuptial mass as we have today, Christians did marry in faciae ecclesiae (acc. to Tertullian, also quoted by Fr Gielser), which meant that their union was sanctified and made sacramental through a Church blessing of some kind. I am not enough of an ecclesiastical historian to be able to supply further details, but see the Tertullian, which I paste in below.

    What Fr. Giesler says is correct for those Christians who were citizens of Rome and could hold property–they would need a “civil” ceremony to validate their status in society. But by a civil Roman ceremony, we should not understand “secular” as we do today. A civil marriage ceremony today is expunged of all religious elements, whereas the Roman marriage rite did incorporate elements of the Roman state religion (since they did not have the separation of church and state).

    An example to clarify: Christian slaves were not citizens of Rome and could not marry in that civil ceremony. But they did marry in the Church. (A lot was written about this at the time).

    The quotation from Tertullian, should not be read as offering the only defining characteristics of married Christians as if tacking that on to the civil ceremony made the marriage Christian.
    I’m sure Father didn’t mean that, and I know Tertullian did not.

    In fact, I’m so happy that we’re having this conversation because it caused me to read closely Tertullian’s Ad uxorem (letter to his wife) in which he describes Christian marriage–it is so beautiful and powerful, and something we can all reflect on this Sunday when the Gospel reading is about Our Lord’s first miracle at the Marriage at Cana.

    Tertullian begins by describing the Christian as having their marriage “arranged by the Church” and strengthened by a mass and the Church’s blessing:

    “THE BEAUTY OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

    “How shall we ever be able adequately to describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church arranges, the Sacrifice strengthens, upon which the blessing sets a seal, at which angels are present as witnesses, and to which the Father gives His consent? For not even on earth do children marry properly and legally without their fathers’ permission.”

    He then continues with the description Father Giesler quotes from. Tertullian’s Ad uxorem is famous because he speaks out very strongly against remarriage, against marrying outside the faith, and against abortion.

    Here is the rest of the paragraph Fr. Giesler quotes from:

    “How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.”

  161. LadyMarchmain says:

    Imrahil, I’m sorry, I missed your post before. I agree with you about the depth of Romanish religion–when I think about Roman marriage and family life, I always remember the scene in “I, Claudius” where Augustus is smiling at the sight of Livia with his two nephews who are about to be poisoned by her, and comments, “Now that’s what I call a fine Roman family!”

    Still, the fact is that “civil” and “state” ceremonies in Ancient Rome contained an element of the state religion necessarily. I don’t think we can know to what extent the average Roman in the forum believed, but I think there is plenty of evidence for some kind of ubiquitous polytheistic superstitious religion being practiced in the form of festivals (lupercalia, saturnalia), burials, ceremonials, etc.

    The idea of a purely secular, I like your term Napoleonic, civilian marriage, even if inspired by the idea of the Roman Republic (which had its moments), probably doesn’t apply to the marriages of antiquity.

  162. LadyMarchmain says:

    Imrahil, with regards to the points made about pre-Cana, I think it’s always been the tradition of most religions, Christian and otherwise, to offer this kind of support and guidance to young couples starting out in married life. I suppose like anything else it could be subject to abuse, but I don’t think most priests have any other intention than to help couples understand the significance of the enormous step they’re about to take.

    I checked the statistics and see the cohabitation is registering at around the 50% point. I suppose we could expect to see sexually active statistics at a much higher percentage.

    Since the chances of a marriage failing are greater following cohabitation, the Church is showing proper pastoral concern in urging couples not consider this normative.

    Now about St Teresa Benedicta de la Crosse (Edith Stein): I made a mistake; her philosophy professor was Husserl (not Heidegger). But about her baptism: I think the point of instruction is not to spend a certain amount of time in study, but to attain to the point of knowledge and spiritual intuition. The RCIA program has deformed this by insisting on catechumens taking a “course” with regular meetings that last a certain amount of time. In the early church, all the catechumens had to wait until Easter, but there were always exceptions made, especially if there was danger of death or other pressing justifications. So surely this is a matter for pastoral judgement.

  163. Imrahil says:

    Dear @LadyMarchmain,

    thank you for your kind answers. My point about Roman marriage was kind-of humorous, which does not mean inaccurate… The simple point about “secular marriage” in the sense of going to the mayor or a substitute is that it was an entirely new idea of the French Revolution (so “Napoleonic”, though the term suggests itself by its good grip, is not entirely accurate), which developed on the sorts of legal institutionalization that had previously been applied to Christian marriage.

    Before all that, marriage was doubtlessly often contracted with religious rites, and most essentially a part of private, not public law. Thus, of course a Christian marriage was valid for the Roman state. And they will, as you said and as I’d always assume without, however, knowing precise facts, by a general custom probably then already binding in morality, not validity, have gone to the priest.
    (Interestingly, Germany does treat it in its Civil Code, where “civil”, the usual translation for ‘bürgerlich’, means “affairs of the private man” [not the citizen]. To attach in this area a constituent force to the presence of an executive official [other than a notary working upon both parties' consent] is a rather striking anomaly.)

    As for pre-Cana, which at least in sufficient importance to be awarded a name like that does not exist here, I never thought it bad to support them. I do say that when forcing such support on them, there is need of care. My “other intention” no. 3 is, however, well founded at least in the fact that it has been argued for, on this blog in the combox, to make marriage formation compulsory for the world-wide Church for one year or nine months [don't exactly recall it] specifically to combat nullity.

    Whatever we think of the support, I do think this approach is wrong.

    Btw., I did understand cohabitation in that sense… But still, if we for a moment do not look at the kind of Catholics who agree with the Church that sex in “lasting relationships” can be termed fornication and sinful (a rather marginal percentage), we have a felt 100% rate of cohabitation before, as the “normative”* sequence is dating – sex – cohabitation – engagement – marriage around here, with the latter only after having secured a lifetime job.
    [*"normative" in the sense of that people feel it the moral way to do. There is also casual sex, but that still is felt as somewhat immoral, as is adultery. I am not saying - I say that primarily to other readers to make my position clear - that this opinion which happens to be wrong is in any way equal to what is right, but it does make a difference. I do think in fact that "people are immoral today" is too simplifying a statement.]

  164. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    The discussion by Sseprn, Lady Marchmain and Imrahil about Roman wedding and marriage puts me in mind of chapter nine of Newman’s novel, Callista (available online at newmanreader.org) – which leaves me still wondering whether (many?) first-three-centuries Christians would have had a Christian wedding without taking any notice of Roman, or other (Greek? Egyptian? Persian?), ‘legal’ marriage.

    The discussion by Imrahil and Lady Marchmain of ‘cohabitation’ and carnal knowledge reminds me of something in Augustinus Lehmkuhl’s 11910 article on “Sacramental Marriage”: “In one case, it is true, according to earlier ecclesiastical law, the previous relation of mere espousal between man and woman became a lawful marriage (and therefore the Sacrament of Marriage), namely when a valid betrothal was followed by consummation. It was a legal presumption that in this case the betrothed parties wished to lessen the sinfulness of their action as much as possible, and therefore performed it with the intention of marriage and not of fornication. The efficient cause of the marriage contract, as well as of the sacrament, was even in this case the mutual intention of marriage, although expression was not given to it in the regular way. This legal presumption ceased on 5 Feb., 1892, by Decree of Leo XIII, as it had grown obsolete among the faithful and was no longer adapted to actual conditions.”

  165. LadyMarchmain says:

    Venerator, thank you for the link to the Newman book! I was looking for something to read this evening. Also thank you for the very interesting account of betrothal and marriage in the Church.

    Imrahil, I can see the distinctions you are making between rampant promiscuity versus what might be considered a common law marriage pending sufficient income or a home of one’s own and a formal progression to marriage. It seems like cohabitation is the new dating game, and the numbers say 60% of married couples will have cohabited first. The down side is that only 50-60% of cohabiting couples end up getting married. The statistics also have shown that cohabiting before marriage increases the likelihood of divorce rate later, although an interesting article I’ve just read is that being engaged as part of cohabiting reduces the likelihood of divorce (connecting to Venerator’s observation about betrothal).

    It’s interesting because it can seem that Our Lord’s teachings and Church teachings are too restrictive, and that following them would make us unhappy, but honestly, some of the happiest couples I know were those who waited until marriage (I’ve never seen two people burn up the carpet on the aisle faster to zip off to their honeymoon) and among married couples, those who don’t contracept and use periodic abstinence. I think that sometimes having to wait for something can make it much more wonderful.

  166. Imrahil says:

    Dear @LadyMarchmain,

    thank you for your kind answer and, yes, I agree.

    Going a bit apart from the general topic, I happen to think there is something at odds not only with general feeling, but also with correct general feeling, in the slogan “true love waits”. It is of course correct – in its basical meaning that true love does not sin. However, all people in love would probably agree that “true love can’t wait”. The point is that there is a second part to the latter sense: “true love can’t wait to get married“. The point is that by natural law (and not only a rule of morality which could just as easily be explained by “well, sorry, but that’s what God ordered to be done”*), sex belongs into marriage. And then even though the loved couple we talk of is are really eager to marry, it then bears the cost of prudence, or of abiding by law (thinking about minimum age – or also a reasonable time for appointment and preparation at the parish), and has to bear the cross of waiting. (That engagement can still be a joyful time does not mean it is not a cross to bear.)

    This cost to be paid does increase the joy when the hope is fulfilled. Still, to travel hopefully is emphatically not better than to arrive.

    [*which is true enough in itself, and which is the only reason for the Sunday commandment, and a sufficient reason for the personal Catholic faithful to behave, but where other, natural law reasons can be given, does by no means suffice in discussion, in philosophy, popular attitude, or pretty much anywhere else.]

    Even so…
    from the very midst of German mainstream, from a band which almost everyone favors (and which, sorry folks, does not even pretend to focus on musical quality in any refined sense of the word), namely the Sportfreunde Stiller, we hear in its probably most celebrated song, a love song called “Ein Kompliment” (I don’t think I need to translate that one), that the loved one is
    [something] so valuable that one gladly saves it up”.
    I could not believe that on first hearing.

    Going a bit back to the topic,
    it would be interesting to measure the effect that the replacement of the “catechetical” formula for the 6th commentmend, “though shalt not commit inchastity”, by its admittedly biblical original which says “adultery”, has had on general morality. Sure, the teacher of religion may explain time and again that the Church also condemns other inchastities (if he believes that himself), but I fear the persuasiveness of anything that is not a swift, cogent – and preferably truthful – slogan (which the ten commandments are) to be of rather limited range. Now they are all saying (this part is no conjecture) that “it’s not adultery after all” – true enough, for it isn’t.